When the devil asked to ‘sift Peter as wheat'(Luke 22:31) what exactly does it mean? Why would he want to do this?
I know that he also asked to persecute Job in the old testament and that God allowed this in order to cure Job of his self righteous attitude.Does this mean the devil has to ask permission to attack us directly, and if so are all our afflictions down to him?
The sifting of Peter took place in his triple denial that he knew the Lord on the night before the crucifixion. It was an attack against an attribute of his that Peter took much pride in, his bravery. Earlier, he had single handedly stood up to the contingent of soldiers who came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10), but then he wound up being intimidated by a slave girl, the most powerless of all possible adversaries.
It was done to demonstrate two things to Peter and to us. One, we’re most vulnerable after a victory. Three days earlier they had all rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. And two, when Satan attacks it will often be in an area where we feel strongest, most self-sufficient. Job’s strongest area was his righteousness, Peter’s was his bravery. This is to show our need for utter reliance upon the Lord.
Yes, all our afflictions are ultimately caused by Satan because he is the author of all the evil in the world. But our own sinfulness is what gives him access to us. God uses Satan’s attacks to expose our sinfulness and our need to confess and be forgiven. This is the point of both Job’s and Peter’s experiences. Both were forgiven and restored after recognizing their sin and confessing. After his sifting, Peter was a changed man as his performance in the Book of Acts clearly demonstrates.