Have you ever read something, maybe a hundred times, but it made the impression of invisible ink? In my quiet time yesterday I read Luke 22:32 “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” I couldn’t believe it! Jesus spoke those words to Simon Peter moments before he warned that Peter would deny him in public. Did you get that? Jesus said ‘I prayed for you …’ Jesus prayed for Peter to stand firm in his faith, and to strengthen his brothers. There was no invisible ink this time; the impression was HD clarity.
As I was contemplating that verse, its significance was unmistakable. Peter was a Christ follower and strong leader in the community, yet he was vulnerable, even positioned to fail when attacked at his weakest link. Deny Jesus? Impossible … until he snapped under pressure. When Peter realized what he had done, verse 62 of Luke 22 says he was devastated and wept bitterly. But that wasn’t the end, Peter kept his faith and went on to greater purpose.
Maybe my preoccupation with that verse comes from knowing that friends are praying for me; that friends pray for friends; that people who have never met, pray for each other. When we pray, we believe God for what he promises. Notice Philippians 4:6 “Do not worry about anything, pray through every situation, be thankful as you present your requests to God. He will give you peace beyond understanding and will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes we ask God over and over for something that is never within our grasp. Sometimes God says no; sometimes we have to wait …. Wait. a. very. long. time. In those times what does God promise? Peace that we don’t understand – if we give up the worry cycle and pray with thanks-living.
When Jesus said “I prayed for you, Simon…” did he then, when Simon Peter denied him, say “Well forget it then!” and detach from him and all others? Of course not! Look what we can learn from Romans 8:26-27 “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us. He searches our hearts, and intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” God is not a magician, performing some hocus pocus sleight of hand to bring about His purpose. He is sovereign Lord just like it says in Isaiah 48:17 “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
When I’m in the decision making process about anything this is my common prayer. “Lord God, you know me, you know my needs and wants, my interests, and my personality. You know how my navigation can get pretty messed up and sometimes my choices are barely on the edge of your purpose for my life. Please, Lord, open doors that only you can open and close doors only you can close, so there is no mistake when this decision has to be made.”
A few years ago I had been looking for a new job for several months and wasn’t sure which areas of interest I should pursue, but anything that included writing like a magnet to me. I had a deficiency in both education and experience, but I applied anyway. In my search I was approached by a recruiter as a possible match for one of their clients. I was enthusiastic about the opportunity and excited to be invited to not one, but three telephone interviews. This seemed to be just what I prayed for. Was this that open door I asked God to open? Optimism was at peak – at peak! Then my hopes plummeted back to Earth. “You have a lot of experience and varied background. You would do great as one of our writers. We need you to beef up your bio though and put these things in there so you sound – well more …. ” That sounded like deception to me. Ah, so tempting. It’s just a resume and I’ve been told that what I lack in experience I make up for in sheer determination. Then I remembered 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I stopped thinking about it and I’m sure I heard the squawking of the door as it slowly closed on the opportunity.
Ephesians 2:10 “”For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I am God’s handiwork – created to do good. Embellishing my history is not doing good. The indelible ink of Luke 22:32 came back to me “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” This sounds like the door sliding closed while Jesus intercedes for me because I’m not sure how pray. Not long after, I got a job offer at a company I had wanted to work for since 1973. “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”
In any way can you relate? Do you struggle with doors that open and close leaving you perplexed? Psalm 33:4 convinces me that worry is futile; trust is the prescription. “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.”