Wednesday of Holy Week, 2021

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

It is certainly the case that had Jesus not prayed for Peter, the temptations by which Peter denied Jesus would have overcome him completely.

Of Jesus, the chosen servant of the Lord, this is what it means when the prophet Isaiah writes that “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3).

Or—as Jesus says in the gospel according to St. John, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).

And with that, you might think to ask about Judas.

Why did Jesus not pray for Judas as He did Peter?

It’s not comforting, but it’s true—Judas belonged to Satan.

It’s not that Jesus lost him—it’s that Judas rejected God.

Or—to say it another way—Judas feared the people. He did not fear God.

So where does that put you?

And what I mean is—would you want Jesus to pray for you as He did Peter?

Would you want Him to say, “Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

I think we would all want that—until, at least, we remember what happened to St. Peter, who was crucified upside down.

His faith didn’t fail—we all want that.

But he was crucified upside down because of his faith—and we’d rather not.

It’s true that we ought to be prepared to suffer for the sake of the gospel, but that doesn’t mean we look for suffering.

As you bear not the cross you choose but the cross God gives you, just so, you do not choose martyrdom.

The cross chooses the Christian, I guess, if you want to say it like that.

My point is, we actually should pray as Jesus does.

For others—that they may bear their crosses such that their faith does not fail.

And—we need to realize that that means we sometimes pray against our own body, mind, and strength.

Imagine if you prayed for your parents or your in-laws the way Jesus prayed for Peter.

“Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

That’s not a troublesome prayer when your parents are healthy and far away.

That’s not a troublesome prayer when your in-laws are choosing things you like.

But what if you prayed for their faith not to fail—and they must confess the faith against your idols?

Let’s not naively think that we are always right and others are always wrong.

We should pray for them—as Jesus did—that their faith would not fail.

And—when we do, we’re praying—perhaps—against our own idols, against our own desires, and against our own body.

And—if that’s the case—that’s good.

Praying for something is always also praying against something else.

Praying for God to destroy evil is also praying against yourself—when you sin in thought, word, or deed.

From the Small Catechism: The good and gracious will of God is done “When God breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”

So when you pray for your parents—that their faith may not fail, remember, when they ask you to go to Sunday School with them, that you asked God for this.

And again, imagine if you prayed for your spouse the way Jesus prayed for Peter.

“Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

That’s not a troublesome prayer when your spouse lets you choose what to watch on tv, what’s for dinner, or which and how many chores you’ll do.

But praying for the faith of your spouse is also praying against your own body—against your own wants.

What one needs, the other may not, and that’s a two-way street.

When you pray for the faith of your spouse, you might be praying, against yourself, that he would have the patience required to win an argument.

You might be praying that she would have the strength to tell you what you need to hear—not what you want.

Praying for something is always also praying against something else.

When you pray for your friends—that God would guard them in all their endeavors, keep them steadfast in the midst of danger, and comfort them when assaulted by the devil and the world—you are also, at least potentially, praying against yourself—when you sin in thought, word, or deed against those for whom you pray.

This is good to keep in mind.

Because you are to pray for good things.

You are to pray for your friends—your family—your husband, wife, and children.

But don’t be naive.

If you pray for your pastor to be unfaithful—who has entered into you and to whom do you belong?

And why should anyone listen to you?

And if you pray for your pastor to be faithful—realize what that means.

He may preach against your false gods.

And he will.

That might hurt. It might not be nice. But it’s good.

He may chant and sing against what’s popular.

And if he sings Lutheran hymns—he will.

That might hurt. You might not like it. But it’s good.

He may tap dance on the ashes of your idols.

Like Moses, he may grind them up, scatter them on the water, gather everyone around for a drink, and wait for them to be expelled.

It’s not a troublesome prayer when your pastor does exactly what everyone else has always done forever.

But that’s not what you’re praying for when you pray for your pastor’s faith not to fail.

For that matter, when your pastor prays for you, that your faith may not fail, he knows that comes with the cross and burden of questions.

Ask them. Test the spirits. Test the fruit.

And rejoice together in the God who has called all to repentance and had mercy on all—in the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember:

Jesus prayed for Peter: “Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

It is certainly the case that had Jesus not prayed for Peter, the temptations by which Peter denied Jesus would have overcome him completely.

But Jesus added this: “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).

Fear God—not the people.

Confess your sin, and God, who is faithful and just, will forgive you your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (cf. 1 John 1:8-9).

Let us pray:

“Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Wednesday of Holy Week, 2021
Luke 22-23
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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