Just before Jesus went to be tortured to death, He said something strange to Peter:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. (Luke 22:31)
Regardless of exactly what Satan had in mind to do, it doesn’t sound like fun. In most church circles, our response would be to pray and ask Jesus not to let that happen. Most of our prayer requests are for God to remove some kind of suffering, right? But not Jesus, at least not in this circumstance. He said:
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. ” (Luke 22:32a )
Apparently, Jesus was going to grant Satan’s request. The disciples (the word “you” in v. 31 is plural) were going to experience a time of “sifting.” In Jesus’ perfect understanding, this time of suffering would produce something good, either for the disciples or for His Kingdom in general. So Jesus did not take the suffering away. What He prayed for, instead, was that Peter’s faith may not fail! Jesus prayed for the continued sufficiency of Peter’s faith, so that he would remain connected to God by it as he went through this period of undefined suffering – through, and then by faith, out the other side. Jesus continues:
And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32b)
When the coastguard sends a ship out on a rescue, their desire is not to keep the ship in the harbor, where it will be safe from the storm, but that their radar and radio systems would remain intact as long as they need them during the rescue mission. There are lots of flaws with that analogy, but you get the idea: Jesus doesn’t promise us freedom from suffering, He doesn’t remove us from all temptation and trial. In fact, Jesus promised us that in this world we will suffer. But, no doubt, He prays for His followers, as He did for Peter, that our faith may not give out. He guards it.
When Jesus taught us to pray, the last part of the prayer was that God would lead us from temptation and deliver us from the Evil One. As we are tempted, He leads us. As we are attacked, He delivers, or rescues us. We are empowered by our faith as we go through suffering. We are led on the right path through the suffering and are delivered out on the other side of the suffering because our faith keeps us connected securely to God.
Think about how those observations fit into all we have been saying about faith (See: “Loud and Clear” and “Basic Faith”). Then ask this question: Whose job is it to make sure your faith doesn’t fail?