“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
Why do bad and tragic things happen to the nicest of people? Why is there suffering in the world? While philosophers and theologians have sweated over these questions for years trying to come up with some convincing theodicy, I would venture to contribute a very simple answer to the debate.
Bad things happen because “Satan asks”.
One of the earliest books of the Bible ever to be written is the book of Job. In the very first chapters, Job 1:6-11, we see a kind of angelic prayer meeting as the “sons of God” come to present themselves to the Lord. Satan joins in the gathering and tries to undermine the divine eulogy of Job by saying that his integrity is based merely on self interest. “…Stretch out your hand and strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to your face…” Satan has a perverse logic in his asking that demands a response from the Lord. Simply destroying Satan would leave his perverted prayer unanswered, raising a question mark in eternity. So the Lord chooses to answer, through the suffering of his servant – a suffering which prefigures the ultimate answer to Satan’s jibe which came in the suffering form of Christ at Calvary.
Satan asks about Job, but he is continually asking about the servants of the Lord. Now it is Simon Peter’s turn to become the unfortunate object of Satan’s prayer. I wonder how many mighty leaders may have underestimated the terrible power of this demonic asking and found themselves in compromising circumstances? How many tragic events in world history may also find their origin in this shadowy orison?
Satan has been asking throughout history. Even when the Father affirmed his pleasure in His Son Jesus by declaring in Luke 3:22:
“You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Satan counter attacked with the twice twisted prayer question: “If you are the Son of God”, hammering home his final prayer proposition to usurp the very position of God.
“…if you worship me…”
The world suffers under this Satan onslaught of damning prayer. Many never seem to be able to rise above the dark tide. However, good news is on the way. For those who believe, there is a greater asking. “But I have prayed for you”
God himself has incarnated into intercessory prayer which at the same time satisfies and overcomes the enemies’ demands. He bled out a greater cry of victory in a prayer that straddles the history of mankind and redeems us from the claims of the evil one.
What might Jesus have prayed?
The great intercession of John 17 gives us some direction. “Glorify…” Jesus quest was always glory for the Father through his own glory. This can also be our own prayer in the midst of suffering. “…What shall I say? (pray)…Save me?…No…Glorify your name…” John 12:27-28
This prayer for glory opens heaven –“it thundered”, casts out and annuls the supplications of the enemy.
“Now is the time for judgement on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” John 12:31
Jesus also prayed for protection for his chosen ones. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…protect them from the evil one.” John 17:11 &15
In Zechariah 3:2 we can also overhear the Lord’s stinging rebuke of the evil one’s prayerful accusation. “The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!”
Jesus prayed for Simon, and he is praying for you. He ever lives to intercede for his people – Hebrews 7:25.
Jesus prayer means that your faith will not fail. Don’t ever give up – maintain your place in the prayer of Christ. The only reason for a failure of prayer is in its ceasing! Jesus, ever lives to pray so never stop! Enter more fully into this “slow burn” prayer of victory.
You can always come home! This was a lesson the prodigal son learned and we must all recognise that, in the heat of the battle – and even in dismal failure, we can still overhear the victorious prayer of grace echoing down from the cross through the ages, and we can find our way back to the Lord.
The school of hard knocks holds much wisdom, and when we return, like Peter, we can indeed strengthen our brothers and sisters. The body of Christ in the world today needs the encouragement of grace filled servants, possessing the word of God on their lips and the intercession of Christ in their hearts, to be strengthened for the last battle and powerful to resist the Satanic supplications of the enemy’s asking.
May we continually enter into a greater asking, basking in the overcoming prayer of Christ.
“I have prayed for you…”