Apparently It Matters

November 4, 2022

It is interesting what you notice if you simply slow down and pay attention to what a passage-–particularly a familiar passage–actually tells us. How about an example?

Many followers of Jesus are well-acquainted with the Passion Week exchange that Jesus had with Peter (Luke 22:14–34). The setting is the “Last Supper.” Jesus has explained what is ahead for Him–His betrayal and death. That prompted some debate among the disciples about who among them would be least likely the traitor–they argued about who was the “greatest” among them. And Jesus addressed that issue.

Then came the specific words He addressed to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sign you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (22:31–32)

Quite often, the attention given to these words leads those who read them to think about Peter’s denial (recorded later) and Satan’s involvement and how tragic it all was. Peter’s three-fold denial is, indeed, sad (22:34). But with our attention on those things, we might actually miss a few surprising things.

Jesus didn’t tell Peter not to give in; He didn’t give Peter some “good advice.” Jesus didn’t affirm Peter; He didn’t encourage Peter in what he would face in the coming moments. Jesus prayed. And Jesus could confidently say that Peter was going to come through the trouble he would face because Jesus had prayed for him. Apparently, that Jesus had prayed (asked the Father for what Peter needed to come through what he was going to face) was what resulted in Peter coming out of the trouble on the far side in a position to encourage and strengthen others.

Being attentive to that exchange (and looking back in the Gospels where we find Jesus encouraging His followers to pray and helping them understand the importance of prayer), I realize that I don’t typically follow Jesus’ example here.

When I know a brother or sister facing spiritually challenging times, I tend to do a whole bunch of other things in place of or before getting around to praying. I offer “good advice,” telling them what I would do in facing such hard times. I share a few Bible verses with them that I think they probably don’t remember or might need to lean on. I put an arm around them, commiserate, and tell them I’m “with them” in what they are facing. Now none of those things are bad–they are just not the same as praying for the person!

Maybe if we thought that the Lord intended to involve us in the care and nurture of one another through our intentional and focused and attentive praying, we might do more of it . . . . and we might see people come through hardships strengthened and encouraged and more able to turn and strengthen others.