Have you noticed the massive staff shortage across industries during this extended season of COVID? I can’t drive a mile without seeing a “help wanted” sign. I’ve waited a long time lately at restaurants for a table and then my meal. It wasn’t for a lack of tables. And it wasn’t for a lack of food. It was for a lack of workers. Workers are scarce. The same is true in the kingdom. That’s why Jesus tells His disciples…
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
Too often, when reading this passage, we feel guilty, throw up a quick prayer and move on. But this is a command, one Jesus gave to His disciples and one relevant for us today.
This command to pray earnestly comes from the Greek deomai which can be translated ask, beg, or plead. The Apostle Paul pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn from his side (2 Corinthians 12:8). I confess I haven’t pleaded with God to send workers with the same urgency as I have begged him to remove pain for myself or those I love. I lack His compassion:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36
Jesus is truly concerned for the harassed and helpless. My heart also breaks when I see images of abused children, abandoned refugees, or hear of anyone victimized by the very people who are meant to protect them.1
But God showed me that my compassion for the spiritually sick and blind did not match my sympathy for the physically abused. Nor had I pitied people being led astray in churches with faulty doctrine like I pitied the poor refugee separated from home and family. Worst of all, I hadn’t remembered I was once one of those sick, blind, and misled sinners whom He rescued.
Compassion and gratitude fuel earnest prayer.
Pray for Laborers
What kind of workers are we to pray for?
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11
Ask the Lord to call, equip, and deploy skilled, wise, and godly pastors, church planters, and missionaries who faithfully preach His Word. Pray He would send them to every inch of the earth, big cities, and obscure little towns, overseas and in your neighborhood. Ask God to send ordinary saints. Everyone with faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins is meant to participate in the work of ministry.
There are people eagerly waiting to hear the gospel, the harvest is plenty! And Jesus, the Bread of Life, and Living Water is ready to quench their hunger and thirst. What we need are workers! Pray God sends them.
Pray with Faith
When you pray for workers, remember you are asking the Lord of the harvest. He presides over the harvest. It’s His harvest. He wants it reaped for His glory. This prayer aligns with His will.
Did you notice that before commanding us to pray for Him to send workers, God led with “the harvest is plentiful”? God knows we often doubt people want to hear the gospel, so He guarantees some are ripe to receive the gospel message. This helps us pray with confident expectation that He will answer.
God’s sheep are on His mind. He chose them before time began. It’s not a small flock. It’s a literal harvest. And the earnest prayer of His disciples is His means of getting workers into those harvest fields. He involves us in His redeeming work. We are to pray.
You May Be the Answer to Your Prayer
It’s not a risk to ask God to send other laborers to do His work. We need to pray remembering God may send us to do the work! We are all His laborers. We can all be used by God to send workers into harvest fields by praying, financially supporting missionaries and church planters, and by going ourselves. Whether His mission field for us is overseas or in our own neighborhood, let’s pray with the same posture of the prophet Isaiah who answered the Lord’s call, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” with “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Several years ago, my friend Tim reflected on Matthew 9:37-38.2 He told a story from his days working at a bookstore where he was responsible for selling memberships. It was the store’s policy to offer membership to every customer at checkout. Tim faithfully shared the benefits with each customer using the same basic script and delivery each time. He said some cut him off with complete disinterest – a quick rejection. Others listened to the whole speech and asked to think it over. But many accepted on the spot, often before he even finished his script. He realized those people had been ready to say yes to the offer before they even entered the store. He could not accurately predict who would say yes, no, or that they would consider it. He was often surprised by their reactions.
The same is true when we share the gospel. We don’t know who will gladly place their faith in Christ, who will reject Him, or who will ponder and believe later, so we must tell them all! And we must pray that others will be sent to tell them.
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