When I’m researching a book, all kinds of questions enter my mind—questions whose answers won’t necessarily become part of the book. Writing Not My Will (based on Jesus’ prayer life) was no exception. For example, when I studied Jesus’ words to Peter at the Last Supper, I wondered, Why didn’t Jesus pray that Peter be protected from trouble? Wouldn’t you if one of your family members or coworkers was going to be experiencing difficult times?
Instead, Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail (see Luke 22:31-32). Peter and the other apostles were going to be facing tough times ahead as their leader was arrested, tried and killed. Satan had demanded—and apparently received—permission to test the disciples. They (and specifically Peter) were going to be shaken like straw in a sieve, a process used to separate valuable wheat from the chaff. Looks like Jesus would have wanted to protect them from this violent shaking process. Wouldn’t you if Peter were your brother, your child or your friend?
Many of our prayers for our loved ones, friends and coworkers are about protection, safety, deliverance and escape. We don’t want to see those we care about go through rough times, but sometimes they do. At those times, Jesus’ prayer for Peter is something we might want to consider praying. We might want to ask that their faith not fail instead of asking for protection.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t pray for protection and safety for others. Jesus did that, too, which added to my perplexity. Later that same night, Jesus prayed for the disciples to be kept “safe from the Evil One” (John 17:15b TEV). Earlier in His ministry, when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, He encouraged them to say, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13a KJV).
What all this suggests to me is that we might want to be more discerning in our prayers. There are times when we will definitely want to pray for protection for our friends and loved ones, but there are also times when praying that their faith wouldn’t fail would be appropriate.
Faith can be a fragile thing. Peter who had been with Jesus over two years was going to deny even knowing Him in a matter of hours. Would his faith grow even weaker? Possibly die out altogether? Or could it survive and grow stronger?
There are going to be those experiences in life when our faith is tested. The undergoing of difficulties and hardship are an integral part of life. These experiences, as hard as they are, can contribute to our faith development by separating the false from the true, the genuine from the fake, the good from the bad. And if our faith survives the sifting, perhaps even growing stronger, we’ll be better able to help others who are struggling. This was Jesus’ vision for Peter. He said “And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32b TEV).
How else would Peter know how to strengthen his brothers if he could not have understood the depth of their dismay over their own failures? They would all desert Jesus in his hour of need, and they would need someone with strong faith to help them. Peter would be that person because Jesus prayed that his faith wouldn’t fail.
The next time you start to ask for protection or safety for someone, pause for a moment. Ask yourself, should I pray instead that his or her faith not fail? I know that’s something I’m doing as a result of pondering the question, Why didn’t Jesus pray that Peter be protected from trouble?