June 15, 2011

PRAYER?: Sifted.

What is prayer, really? Communication, connection, intimacy with God. How does community fit into it? It's something we NEED to learn. Do we have a clue what we are doing? There are clues in this quote by Jesus.
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of 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."
-- Jesus, Luke 22:31-32
There are many questions about Satan and evil, especially on a university campus.  I don't begin to claim an understanding of the debates or all of the questions that start them.  I do ask questions, too.  There are different kinds of questions for God.  They all boil down to some form of Who, What, When, Where and especially Why.

When I read Jesus' quote, in context, I see more clues than questions.

They had all been having their Passover meal.  Some conversation had happened about one of them betraying Jesus.  Ironically, they all ended up betraying him to some degree not long after this.  So have we.  Most importantly, it's the things He's asked us to BE and DO that we've ignored.  The habit we have of leaving His side to walk on our own.  The times we let down those He'd have us Love.  The times we abandon His Kingdom for our own kingdom. It's interesting that the next conversation was about who is greatest among them.  Jesus straightens that out promptly!  The greatest is actually the one who serves... who gives Love away. Not the one reigning atop their own kingdom.  Then, 'You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom...'

Stood by me in trials = confer on you a kingdom.  
Not leaving His side... Stand By.
Not Vacation... Trials.
Not your kingdom... His Kingdom!

His Way... His Kingdom... Is ultimately GOOD.  If it SEEMS it is not, then WE don't UNDERSTAND fully yet.  We do not see the whole picture.

We tend to abandon His Kingdom that He has conferred on us to pursue our own plans... for many reasons.  Oh, and having a Kingdom conferred on us is about responsibility, effort... LOVE... restoring others, sacrifice and the conferring comes by trial.

Then, our quote. "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat."  So, Satan asked to sift and apparently was given permission.  Trial?

"But, I have prayed for you, Simon"

If we are writing the story according to our expectations, God would stop the sifting because Jesus prayed for Simon.  And, if Simon still got sifted, then God must not exist... or He's just not powerful enough... or He just doesn't care.  The other side is that Simon didn't have enough faith... or Jesus didn't.  We tend to assume that Jesus prayed and so obviously He asked God to reject Satan's request and make Simon's path easy.

"But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail."

Let's change the way we think.  Open our eyes to His ways that are greater than ours.  Take a posture of discovery with God.  Learn from Him through the life of His Son.

Jesus, first of all, knew that Satan had asked to sift them...We should Ask God about people and situations with an expectation of gaining insight.  Jesus was ushering in a new life for humanity and He conveyed the watch and work to those who stand by Him in trials.  He is still with people in trials... if we are standing by Him, then we are too.

Jesus asked God to provide Simon faith that would withstand the sifting...
Trials, challenges, struggles, pain... these things strengthen us when we trust God through them.  We should Ask God to provide the Spiritual fruit and enable us and others to withstand the sifting.  It's all part of growing into who He intends us to be... DOing our part in a Kingdom for ALL people.

"And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

When you turn back...

Jesus knew Simon would turn back and He spoke to him with confidence and Love.
Turning, wandering, questions, doubts, distractions, failures, abandoning, denials...  It really is all part of the journey.  There will be times that you find yourself, Returning to Him.  Understand, though, failures and questions do not change our responsibility to one another.  It doesn't make us worthless or powerless.  There is a standing invitation to turn back and your purpose and identity in Christ remains.  In all of it, we are works in progress and God has promised to see us to completion.  So, persevere and let God lead your thinking and your dreams and you'll know your purpose.

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