Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-25-69 7:30 p.m.
You are invited as you listen on the radio with us in the First Baptist Church here in Dallas, with the pastor, turn to the twenty-second chapter of Luke; Luke chapter 22 and with us read out loud together verses 24 through verses 34. Luke chapter 22:24-34. The title of the sermon is I Have Prayed for Thee. You will see it in the text as we read it out loud together. Luke 22:24-34. Now all of us reading out loud together:
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not He that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that serveth.
Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations.
And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me;
That ye may eat and drink at my table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
And he said unto Him, Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death.
And He said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me.
It is an unusual coincidence – each Sunday night I preach through the life of Christ. For a long time, for many years I was following it chronologically; but I found in it, in the method of it, a weakness that troubled my soul. For in the Gospels, the great spaciousness and emphasis in the life of our Lord is in His crucifixion and death, His atonement for our sins. And preaching chronologically in a parallel, in a "harmony of the Gospels," they call it in the seminary, I was finding that it was so far off, and it needs to be preached often.
So as I sat in my study and thought and prayed – I don’t know why these things are not obvious. It came to my heart, why do not I follow what the Holy Spirit inspired the evangelists to do in the Bible? Here in the Word of God you have the story of our Lord told by Matthew, and then the glorious atonement for our souls. Then you have the story of our Lord told by Mark, and then again the crucifixion of our Lord for our sins. Then the story told by Luke, and again the story of the death of Jesus for us. Then the story told by John, and once again, and this time in meticulous detail, the story of the death and suffering of our Lord. So, I just decided to quit what I was doing, the method I was following and do it like it is here in the Bible. So at that time, when I came to that deep, moving and to me meaningful conviction: that when I preach, I ought to follow the pattern of the Word of God.
Now I think one of the most colossal weaknesses of our Sunday school teaching is this: that it is hop, skip, and jump. And you can go to Sunday school ten thousand years and never learn the Bible. You have a little dab here, and a little piece there, and a little thing yonder. The only way to learn the Book is like God put it there. By inspiration you have the Bible [2 Timothy 3:16]. Here it is, and that is the way God did it, and that is the way they study it here in this Bible class.
Well, I just quit doing what I thought would be a better pattern to follow, and I started doing what God followed here in the Bible, and I am very happy. You will always find a rest and a comfort and a strength in following the pattern of God.
So, I am now preaching Luke. And when I get through Luke, I will start in John. And then somebody said last week, "Now when you get through John, what are you going to do?" There are only four Gospels. I said, "I am going to start in Matthew and go over it again because you never wear God’s Book out." You just don’t wear it threadbare. You can’t. It’s like an unfathomable sea. You never get to the bottom of it. It’s like pearls found in the caverns of the deep. However you may bring up to view glorious gems from God’s infinite sea, there are that many more that remain to be discovered. So that’s why we are going through Luke.
Now, in the strange coincidence, I am preaching about fishing in the morning; fishing. And this morning it was the big fisherman, Simon Peter. And here in our preaching through the life of our Lord is Simon Peter again. Only this time, the Lord says to him, "Simon, Simon," and wherever you find the Master repeating those words, "Martha, Martha," "Simon, Simon," it is something deeply significant that the Lord is preparing to say. "Simon, Simon, look, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat" [Luke 22:31].
And we don’t believe in Satan anymore. Well, if there is no Satan, then who is doing his work? Isn’t that the truth? I don’t suppose there is anything more oppressively felt in our lives than the spirit of evil, iniquity, transgression, the pulling, the drag of a dark and evil world. And it is presided over, God says, by Satan, by Lucifer. "Satan hath desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat" [Luke 22:31]. He is going to try you. And in that trial you are going to find yourself before somebody, a personality, that is beyond you. And if you haven’t found that in your life, it is because you have never rowed upstream. You’ve never tried to resist. He hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat, press you. "But I have prayed for thee – I have prayed for thee." "I prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…and when thou are converted, when you come back, when you turn around, strengthen thy brethren" [Luke 22:32]. You will be a more compassionate, understanding, sympathetic preacher after you have been through the trials of Satan. I have prayed for thee" [Luke 22:32].
First of all, there is not anything that I can say about our Lord that would be more typical than this: that, "I have prayed for thee." In the beginning of His ministry, Luke says when He was baptized He was praying [Luke 3:21]. As Mark began the story of the Lord in the first chapter, he says, "Rising up a great while before day, He went into a solitary place, and there He prayed" [Mark 1:35]. And in the continuing ministry of our Lord before He fed the five thousand He prayed [Matthew 14:19; John 6:11]. Before He opened the eyes of the blind, He prayed [John 9:30-31]. Before He raised Lazarus from the dead, He prayed [John 11:41-44].
In the great decision that He made in His life when by force they sought to coerce Him to be a king, He sent His disciples away who were egging it on [John 6:15-17]. "Why," they thought, such a day; Jesus, King." "I will be His prime minister." "And I will be the chancellor of the exchequer." "And I will be the minister of state." "And I will have the portfolio of the interior." Oh, what things they dreamed for themselves when they came by force, John says, by force to make Him a king. And He sent those disciples away, and Himself went into a mountain, and there prayed [John 6:15].
When He established the Lord’s Supper and He gave us the pattern: before we break bread, we pray; before we share the cup, we pray. That’s a pattern of life for us, to pray [Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:17-19]. In Gethsemane He prayed [Matthew 26:36-44]. On the cross He prayed [Luke 23:34, 46]. As He was taken up into heaven He spread forth His hands, He stretched forth His hands, and prayed, blessed the disciples, as He was taken up from them [Luke 24:50-51].
And in heaven what is Jesus doing now? I think of the life of our Lord. There were thirty-three years of living. There was one mighty act of dying [Matthew 27:32-50]. And there has been two thousand years of praying ever since. As Hebrews 7:25 says, "Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come to God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to pray for them, to intercede for them." What is Jesus doing now? He is our great Advocate and Intercessor in heaven, mediating for us [Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1]. "I have prayed for thee" [Luke 22:32].
Now, it is a wonderful thing how the compassion of our Lord leads Him into a sympathetic choice of us. And the more you know about yourself, and if it were possible, the more you would know about the servants, the disciples of the Lord, then and now, the more you are overwhelmed by how the Lord is. He can see what we are going to do before it’s done; and yet in spite of that, He has such tremendous sympathies with us and such significant, meaningful choices of us.
In the [eighth] chapter of the Book of 2 Kings you have the story of the anointing of Hazael to be king over Damascus, over Syria. And as Elisha met Hazael he looked at him, and he looked at him, and he looked at him. And Hazael became self-conscious, and asked the prophet why he so looked at him.
And Elisha said, "The Lord hath revealed to me that when you become king over Syria, you will destroy and wage war against the people of the Lord. You will rip up their women with child. You will burn their homes. You will ravage their cities."
And Hazael said, "Am I a dog that I should do a thing like that?" [2 Kings 8:11-13].
But the Lord knew it. And it came to pass just as Elisha said.
Well, the Lord looks at Simon Peter and says to him, "Before the cock crows in the morning, this coming morning, you will thrice deny that you even know Me" [Matthew 26:34].
And in the words of Hazael I can almost hear Simon Peter reply, "Am I a dog that I would do a thing like that? Deny You? Why Lord, I would go to prison. I would die for You!" [Matthew 26:35; Luke 22:33-34].
And the Lord repeated again, "Before the cock crows in the morning, before the sun rises tomorrow, thrice you will deny that you even know Me. But I have prayed for thee. And when you turn, when you come back, strengthen thy brethren [Luke 22:32]. Encourage them who also know trial and weakness and failure."
Well, that’s the Lord. That’s the Lord, what He can see in us: a despised tax collector [Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-29], and he is the one that took those notes and wrote that Aramaic logion that is the basis of the Gospels here. He’s a tax collector. He made notes. He was in the habit of making notes, and he made notes of the life of our Lord and wrote them down; Matthew.
Jesus had an argument with Simon the Pharisee. He was a guest in his home [Luke 7:36]. And while He was the guest there, eating as in that day, leaning on His left arm and His feet out, leaning on a low table and His feet out, there came in a sinful woman from the street who bathed His feet with her tears and anointed them with an alabaster box broken of ointment and wiped His feet with the hairs of her head [Luke 7:36-38].
And Simon the Pharisee was indignant, indignant. And he said, "If this man were a prophet He would know what kind of a harlot that is" [Luke 7:39].
Well, I am not in sympathy with prostitution, and I am not in sympathy with thievery, and I am not in sympathy with drunkenness, and I am not in sympathy with all of the darkness of the criminal world. But I tell you, my brethren, it is very easy to pass over that line to the pharisaical judgment whereby I am proud of myself that I don’t steal, or I am not a prostitute, or I am not a thief. It isn’t long before you start praying "O" God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men, sinners and transgressors and extortioners and full of evil iniquity" [Luke 18:11-12]. It’s just almost a hair’s breadth over there to that pharisaical self-righteousness. And that’s worse. That’s worse. That’s worse.
And that precipitated the argument between Jesus and Simon the Pharisee. "This woman, vile and iniquitous as she is, yet she bathed My feet with her tears, and you did not. And she anointed My feet with oil, but you did not. And she dried My feet with the hairs of her head, and you never gave Me a towel or water. And she, her sins being many, she loveth much; she is forgiven in her faith, and in her love, and in her devotion" [Luke 7:44-50]. That’s Jesus. "I have prayed for thee" [Luke 22:32].
And what He can see in us: who would ever have thought of choosing Saul of Tarsus to be the great apostle to the Gentiles? Why, even the disciples didn’t think of it. When they met, they chose Matthias [Acts 1:21-26]. We choose Matthias, but God chose Saul [Acts 9:13-15]. And I have no idea who Matthias was. No idea at all. I’ve never heard of him before and I have never heard of him since. That’s men’s thinking, and that is men’s judgment, and that is men’s choice. But God chose the arch persecutor of the Christian faith [Acts 9:1-12]. God chose Saul, and changed his name to Paul [Acts 13:9], and sent him out to preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God [Acts 13:1-3].
Now I have a little concluding word. Our time speeds away.
What those prayers do: do you ever sit down and think why is it that God wants us to pray? Why doesn’t He just give us the blessing? Why should we pray for the lost? Why doesn’t God just save them? Why should we pray for bread? Why didn’t God just give us bread? Why should we pray? Why? Why doesn’t God just do it?
Well, of course, there are a lot of things we will talk over with the blessed Jesus when we get to glory. But God made it that way. It was His choice that way. God made us to breathe. And if we don’t breathe, we die. He made us to breathe. God made us to eat. And if we don’t eat, we die. God made us to sleep. If we don’t sleep, we die. God made us that way.
And God made us in a compact of fellowship where we talk to one another. Why, if you had a little child in your home and he never said anything to you, and he never talked to you, and he never visited with you, and he never asked you anything, why, I tell you, I believe the day would come when you would give your right arm and your left arm and your very life if the child would just say something to you. You just would.
Why, as much as we think, "Well, they just ask me, ‘give-me give-me give-me’ all the time."
I brought Cris to church here tonight and he said, "You haven’t given me my allowance for the week."
Well, I said, "Well, what do you want to do with it now?"
He said, "I want to put it in my pocket."
I said, "Well, what are you going to do with it?"
He said, "Well, that is up to me. You just give me my allowance. I want my allowance"
I said, "You want it right now?"
He said, "Yes," he said, "I want it right now. You should have given it to me yesterday. I want it now."
So I reached in my pocket and I gave him his allowance.
Do you have that in your pocket? Now you got that, he has got that in his pocket right now. Isn’t that something?
Well, aren’t you mad at him because he asked? No, it just compliments me to death because I can give it to him. I want to be that all of his life. If he gets to be an old man and I am still alive, I would count it a compliment if he’d come and ask me for something.
He is like that. God is like that. He is complimented if you’ll ask. He said so. "Ask that you may receive; seek that you may find; knock, and keep on knocking, that it may open to you" [Matthew 7:7]. That’s God. He made us that way, and He chose to do it that way, that we talk to Him and that we ask Him. We call that praying. When we talk to God, we call it praying. And we lay it before Him, and ask of the Lord. Oh dear, what a difference it makes!
Before I close, could I take just one little sentence out of the Bible? You already know what it means, but just to remind you. When the Lord appeared to Saul and said, "Why persecutest thou Me?" [Acts 9:4]. Then He added a little word, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" [Acts 9:5]. What in the earth did that mean? Saul, blasphemous, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the people of the Lord, on the way to Damascus to hale into prison and to death those that called upon that Name [Acts 9:1-2]. And the Lord met him in the way, and Saul said, "Who are You?" [Acts 9:5] And He said, "I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest [Acts 9:5, 22:8]. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
What did that mean? I think it meant simply this. He was the young man who presided over the execution of Stephen [Acts 7:58], God’s deacon, the first Christian martyr. That young fellow presided over the execution, the stoning of Stephen. And he stood there; he wouldn’t deign to soil his hands with picking up a dirty rock, he had others do it for him [Acts 7:59]. But he stood there and presided over the stoning of Stephen. And they laid down their garments at his feet that they might be freer to hurl those rocks with vengeance and anger and violence.
And he never saw a man die like that. He had seen many a man die, but he’d never seen one die like that. For when Stephen died and they beat him to the ground, and the blood flowed out on the earth, when he died, he died praying. "Lord, lay not this to their charge" [Acts 7:60]. And Paul, Saul, had never seen a man die like that. And that gave rise to one of the most significant theological sentences I have ever read in my life. And I think it is true. The sentence is this: "Had Stephen not prayed, Paul hadn’t preached."
That’s what I think it meant when Jesus said, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" [Acts 9:5]. You are persecuting these people, and you are slaying these people, and you are slaughtering these people. You are killing these people, but you can’t get away from the way Stephen died; down on his knees, beat to the earth, praying for those who are taking his life [Acts 7:60]. "I have prayed for thee" [Luke 22:32].
Think of your own life. Good people who love you and pray for you; think of the members of your family, mother and father, brother and sister. They have prayed for you. Think of Jesus in glory, interceding for us [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. O blessed God, answer prayer, save us, sanctify our days, hallow our lives, keep us from disease and danger and death. Use us, Lord, and make us a blessing. And in response, if I know my soul, O God, I’ll give Thee the strength of my life, the days and the nights, the moments, the hours, the unfolding vistas of every future, the dreams, the visions; everything, Lord, I’ll dedicate it to Thee.
And if that is your heart tonight, come and stand by me. In a moment we will sing our song of appeal, and in this balcony round, you: "Tonight, pastor, I decide for my Lord, and here I come." Do it tonight. Make it tonight. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." A family, you come; a couple, you come; a one somebody you, you come; giving your life in trust to Jesus, or reconsecrating your life to the blessed Lord, or putting your home and family in the fellowship of this dear church, or just you. As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now; decide now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Do it now. Make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.