Sifted Like Wheat

The Power of Intercessory Prayer
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sifted like wheat, intercessory prayer

I've been involved in children's ministry now for over 30 years. Sometimes I see the good fruit of my labor lived out in the lives of young adults who are now following the Lord. But I also know several young adults who are not living for the Lord, (that is from my perspective). This weighs heavily on my heart. I pray they remember God's love for them. I ask God to bring believers into their lives to positively influence them, and I pray God's protection over them. On one such day as I was praying, the conversation between Simon Peter and Jesus came to mind. Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" Luke 22:32 (NIV). 

The image that first came to mind was that of a flour sifter people use today when baking. But that is the wrong image. In Jesus' day, wheat was beaten, pounded, and torn apart against a hard, flat surface, known as a threshing* floor, to separate the wheat kernel from the waste straw. 

It is discouraging to see young adults not living for the Lord, particularly those I've taught. It saddens me and I'm fearful for them, not wanting them to be torn apart. I also wonder, what else could I have taught them? Could I have done more? 

But the passage from Luke encourages me too. It reminds me that I'm not alone in my intercessory prayers. Jesus prayed for Peter, and promises to pray for us too (John 17). However, when we read about Peter's denial when Jesus was arrested, from our perspective it looked like Satan had won. Yet, the story wasn't over! When Peter saw the resurrected Christ, and after Jesus restored him, Peter grew to become one of the great leaders of our faith. He came to understand Jesus' warning about being sifted, that Satan's goal is to tear apart and beat down Jesus' followers. Peter later wrote, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour" 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT). This verse tells us that Peter lived out Jesus' prayer for him, to strengthen his brothers. What an encouragement this is to keep praying for those we've taught!

As I think about Jesus' warning, and how we can strengthen children under our care from Satan's attacks, I am reminded of the importance of Bible memorization, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" Psalm 119:11 (NIV), and the promise from Scripture that God's Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Even so, sometimes we must wait to see the fruit of our labor in the lives of those we've taught, whether it it be in this life or the next! 

*Threshing in Old Testament times was also a symbol for destruction or divine judgment (2 Kings 13:7; Amos 1:3; Isaiah 28:27-28). 

Copyright 2022 S.A. Keith

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