In Matthew 9 Jesus said to 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.”
I wonder how often to we as individuals pray what Jesus told us to pray? I wonder how often do we as a church obey our Lord's command? Could it be that our barrenness in the harvest is a direct result of failing to follow the Jesus' instruction to make this prayer a priority in both our individual and corporate lives?
This is an important text that we must not rush through. The text calls for individual self examination and personal reflection. The same holds true for the church. If we are not seeing people come to faith in Christ we must engage in serious soul searching as to why that is true.
From the text we learn that the problem is not the harvest. Jesus says that the harvest IS plentiful. Right now in 2018 in Berea Ky the harvest is plentiful right now. The harvest is not the problem.
The harvest is not the problem
I think we can all agree that the harvest is just as Jesus described it. The harvest is plentiful.
Here is an eye opening exercise. What if each one of us would take just five minutes and as quickly as we can we record the names of our family members, our friends, our neighbors and our co-workers who do not profess faith in Christ.
I wonder how many names you could record in just five minutes. I believe a conservative estimate would be 10. I'm confident that most of us could easily compile a list of 10 or more people in our sphere of influence who are not believers.
Now let's multiply that list by 50. 50 x 10 = 500 What happens when we begin to multiply the 10 we know by a 100? Or 500? Or 10,000? A simple math equation presses home the reality of what Jesus said. The harvest is PLENTIFUL!
A Lack of Prayer
If the problem is not the harvest then what is? The temptation is strong to jump to the end of what Jesus said and think that the problem is that there is not enough laborers working the harvest. That is true or Jesus would not have mentioned it. But that's not the real issue.
The real issue, the real problem is our lack of prayer. Specifically a lack of earnest prayer. What does Jesus mean by earnest prayer?
Earnest prayer is characterized by the following elements:
- Urgency. To pray earnestly means that there is some urgency to our prayers. Think of a frantic 911 call that you would make if your child, or spouse was in desperate need of medical attention. We've all heard those recorded 911 calls in which you can hear the urgency in their voices. That is the same kind of urgency that should characterize our prayers to the Lord of the harvest. People are dying, people are in desperate need and there is no time to waste.
- Pleading. Earnest prayer is pleading dare we say begging prayer. Most of us have pleaded with God in our times of trouble. I can vividly remember a time in my life being on my face before God pleading with Him for help. But I'm ashamed to say that the times I have pleaded with God, literally begged God to send laborers out in His harvest have been far too few and herein lies the real problem.
How to make this kind of prayer a priority?
Hopefully you are at the place where you recognize that each one of us who profess faith in Christ have an obligation to pray this way. Our Lord Jesus has given clear instruction to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest that He would send out laborers into His harvest.
Review the facts
Let's quickly review the facts Jesus has laid before us.
- The harvest is plentiful
- The laborers are few
- The problem has a solution – earnest prayer to the Lord of the harvest
But the problem most of us have is making this kind of prayer a priority. Or for that matter making any prayer a priority. What steps can we take to make prayer a priority?
First, understand that Jesus was not trying to put us on a guilt trip. He was not trying to motivate us through guilt.
Second, understand that following the Lord's command has a double benefit. By that I mean the benefit that you and I experience is the intimacy of prayer. Prayer is one of the powerful means that our Heavenly Father has given to us to draw closer to Him. Prayer, earnest prayer will change our heart to be like His heart. Guess what will begin to happen? A sincere heart-felt burden for the harvest will become natural for us. The second benefit are all those who make up the harvest. As you and I engage in earnest prayer urgently pleading with our Heavenly Father He will answer that prayer and He will send out laborers into His harvest which means that the more laborers working the harvest will increase the yield of the harvest.
Third, plan your prayer time. We've all heard the saying what gets planned gets done or something to that effect. This certainly applies to our prayer life. If we do not schedule regular times of prayer our prayer life will be sporadic and probably ineffective. When should you pray? The best answer to that question is "every time the Holy Spirit leads you too". But what about all those times you don't feel like praying? Pray anyway! Pray when you are at your mental best. For some like me I am much more productive in the early morning than I am in the middle of the afternoon. You may be just the opposite. The point is to pray when you are at your mental best, whether that is morning, noon or night. And put it in your schedule.
Fourth, remind yourself it's time to pray. Do you know how I remember to take my medicine every day? I have a reminder set in my phone that goes off every day at the same time reminding me to take my medicine. Apply the same principle to prayer. Set yourself one or more reminders to pray during the day.
Do you want to see growth in God's Kingdom?
I want to see growth in God's Kingdom and if I take the Lord's command to heart and begin to faithfully and earnestly pray as I should I will see God's Kingdom grow and I will see our local church grow as well.
Prayer the Lord's church growth strategy!