It is just after midnight. Jesus has been arrested and his disciples are scattered. Peter is trying to sneak into the proceedings, but like most outspoken people, is too easily recognized. Tonight, the eternal destinies of two souls are sealed: Peter as the humanly flawed head of the church, Judas as the human pawn of Satan. What separates these two men, both of whom in their own way denied Jesus? Prayer.
Jesus tells Peter earlier in the evening.
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
Throughout our Lenten observance we have been struggling with prayer. We have asked what prayer is and how it is unique from other forms of communication. We still are not sure how the command to pray continuously and Jesus’ answer to his disciples request by giving them the Lord’s Prayer are different or similar, and how both can be met following the example of our Lord.
Yet, one thing cannot be denied. It is on prayer that the eternal destiny of these two men turned. Peter was saved by the intervention of Jesus–“But I have prayed for you, Simon…”, and Judas was lost as the Lord let him goes his own way. It was God himself who said to Moses,
I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Exodus 33:19b
He who began a good work in Simon Peter, saw it to completion. Leaving the ninety-nine, he pursued the one, with prayer at the center of the pursuit. Prayer is healing; prayer is powerful; prayer is effective. Just ask Peter. Or ask James, the Lords brother.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16
It may be argued that the prayer of Jesus and his intercession for Peter is beyond our ability, but Jesus himself told his disciples,
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12
There is nothing more powerful than prayer. Over the course of this Lenten observance I have also come to believe that while prayer is on one hand simple and easy, it is also the most difficult and challenging aspect of my Christian life and walk. It is very much like its close analog, speaking. Everyone can talk, but few people can talk exceptionally well.
As we move, in the next few hours, down the Via Dolorosa, let us never forget the power of prayer. That of our Lord
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,[e] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areyet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them….The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Hebrews 7:22-24 and 8:1-2
that of our own. But, you say to me that even if that is true, I am too weak to pray like Jesus, to intercede for the Peters in my life. My response is that God has already dealt with that.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26
Yes, I believe that prayer is the key. It is central to Christ’s work for and in us and it is central in our work for an in each other as members of the family of God.
Therefore, my prayer on the next to last day of our Lenten observance is this.
May God in his mercy fill your every need through Christ Jesus our Lord, so that when you have turned back and been strengthened, you may in turn strengthen those whom the Lord has placed in your care and on your heart. This is my prayer, made efficacious through the intercession of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.