In The School of Prayer
“Pray the Lord of the harvest,”
Or, Prayer provides Laborers.
“Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that He will send laborers into His harvest”— Matthew 9:37-38.
The Lord frequently taught His disciples they must pray and how, but only sometimes, what to pray. This he left to their sense of need and the leading of the Spirit. But here we have one thing He expressly urges them to remember; because of the plenteous harvest, and the need for reapers, they must cry to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers. Just as in the parable of the friend at midnight, He would have them understand that prayer is not to be selfish; so here it is the power through which blessing can come to others. The Father is Lord of the harvest; when we pray for the Holy Spirit, we must pray for Him to prepare and send laborers for the work. Strange, is it not that He should ask His disciples to pray for this? And could He not pray Himself? And would not one prayer of His avail more than a thousand of theirs? And God, the Lord of the harvest, did He not see the need? And would He not send forth laborers without their prayer in His own good time? Such questions lead us to the deepest mysteries of prayer and its power in the Kingdom of God. The answer to such questions will convince us that prayer is indeed a power on which the ingathering of the harvest and the coming of the Kingdom do, in very truth, depend.
Prayer is no form or show. The Lord Jesus was Himself the truth; everything He spoke was the most profound truth. It was when (see ver. 36) “He saw the multitude and was moved with compassion on them because they were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,” that He called on the disciples to pray for laborers to be sent among them. He did so because He believed that their prayer was needed and would help. The veil which so hides the invisible world from us was wonderfully transparent to the holy human soul of Jesus. He had looked long, deep, and far into the spirit world’s hidden connection of cause and effect. He had marked in God’s Word how God called men like Abraham and Moses, Joshua and Samuel and Daniel, and given them authority over men in His name. At the same time, he had given them authority and the right to call in the powers of heaven to their aid as they needed them. He knew that as to these men of old, and Himself for a time, here upon earth, the work of God had been entrusted, so it was now about to pass over into the hands of His disciples. He knew that when this work should be given in charge to them, it would not be a mere matter of form or show, but that on them, and their being faithful or unfaithful, the work’s success would depend. As a single individual, within the limitations of a human body and a human life, Jesus feels how little a short visit can accomplish among these wandering sheep He sees around Him. He longs for help to have them properly cared for. And so He tells His disciples to begin and pray, and, when they have taken over the work from Him on earth, to make this one of the chief petitions in their prayer; That the Lord of the harvest Himself would send forth laborers into His harvest. The God who entrusted them with the work, and made it largely dependent on them, gives them authority to apply to Him for laborers to help and makes the supply dependent on their prayer.
He will send laborers into His harvest–Jesus
How little Christians feel and mourn the need for laborers in the fields of the world so white to the harvest. And how little they believe that our labor supply depends on prayer, that prayer will really provide “as many as he needeth.” Not that the absence of labor is not known or discussed. Not that efforts are not sometimes put forth to supply the want. But how little the burden of the sheep wandering without a Shepherd is really borne in the faith that the Lord of the harvest will, in answer to prayer, send forth the laborers, and in the solemn conviction that without this prayer, fields ready for reaping will be left to perish. And yet it is so. So wonderful is the surrender of His work into the hands of His Church, so dependent has the Lord made Himself on them as His body, through whom alone His work can be done, so real is the power which the Lord gives His people to exercise in heaven and earth, that the number of the laborers and the measure of the harvest does depend upon their prayer.
Solemn thought! Why is it that we do not obey the injunction of the Master more heartily and cry more earnestly for laborers? There are two reasons for this. The one is; We miss the compassion of Jesus, which gave rise to this request for prayer. When believers learn that to love their neighbors as themselves and live entirely for God’s glory for their fellow men is the Father’s first commandment to His redeemed ones, they will accept the perishing ones as the charge entrusted to them by their Lord. And, accepting them not only as a field of labor but as the objects of loving care and interest will not be long before compassion towards the hopelessly perishing will touch their heart, and the cry ascends with an earnestness till then unknown; Lord! Send laborers. The other reason for the neglect of the command, the want of faith, will then make itself felt but will be overcome as our pity pleads for help. We believe too little in the power of prayer to bring about definite results. We do not live close enough to God. We are not sufficient entirely given up on His service and Kingdom to be capable of the confidence that He will give it in answer to our prayer. Let us pray for life so one with Christ that His compassion may stream into us, and His Spirit can assure us that our prayer avails.
Such prayer will ask and obtain a twofold blessing. There will first be the desire for the increase of men entirely given up to the service of God. It is a terrible blot upon the Church of Christ that there are times when men cannot be found for the service of the Master as ministers, missionaries, or teachers of God’s Word. As God’s children make this a matter of supplication for their circle or Church, it will be given. The Lord Jesus is now Lord of the harvest. He has been exalted to bestow gifts — the gifts of the Spirit. His chief gifts are men filled with the Spirit. But the supply and distribution of the gifts depend on the cooperation of the Head and members. It is just prayer that will lead to such cooperation; the believing suppliants will be stirred to find the men and the means for the work.
The other blessing to be asked will not be less. Every believer is a laborer, not one of God’s children who has not been redeemed for service and has not his work waiting. We must pray that the Lord would fill all His people with the spirit of devotion so that no one may be found standing idle in the vineyard. Wherever there is a complaint of the want of helpers or fit helpers in God’s work, prayer promises a supply. No Sunday school or district is visiting, Bible reading, or rescue work, where God is not ready and able to provide. It may take time and importunity, but the command of Christ to ask the Lord of the harvest is the pledge that the prayer will be heard; “I say unto you, he will arise and give him as many as he needeth.”
Solemn, blessed thought! This power has been given to us in prayer to provide for the world’s needs and to secure the servants for God’s work. The Lord of the harvest will hear. Christ, who called us so specially to pray thus, will support our prayers offered in His name and interest. Let us set apart time and give ourselves to this part of our intercessory work. It will lead us into the fellowship of His compassionate heart that led Him to call for our prayers. It will elevate us to the insight of our regal position as those whose will counts for something with the great God in advancing His Kingdom. It will make us feel that we are God’s fellow workers on earth, to whom a share in His work has been entrusted to us. It will make us partakers in the soul travail and the soul satisfaction of Jesus, as we know how blessing has been given that otherwise would not have come in answer to our prayer.
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
Blessed Lord! Thou hast again given us another of Thy wondrous lessons to learn. We humbly ask Thee, give us to see aright the spiritual realities of which Thou hast been speaking. There is the harvest which is so large and perishing, as it waits for sleepy disciples to give the signal for laborers to come. Lord, teach us to look out upon it with a heart moved with compassion and pity. There are the laborers, so few. Lord, show us how terrible the sin of the want of prayer and faith, of which this is the token. And there is the Lord of the harvest, ready to send them forth. ” Lord, show us how He does indeed wait for the prayer to which He has bound His answer. And there are the disciples, to whom the commission to pray has been given; Lord, show us how Thou canst pour down Thy Spirit and breathe upon them so that Thy compassion and the faith in Thy promise shall rouse them to unceasing, prevailing prayer.
Our Lord! We cannot understand how Thou canst entrust such work and give such power to men so slothful and unfaithful. We thank Thee for all whom Thou art teaching to cry day and night for laborers to be sent forth. Lord, breathe Thine own Spirit on all Thy children, that they may learn to live for this one thing alone — ^the Kingdom and glory of their Lord — and become fully awake to the faith of what their prayer can accomplish. And let all our hearts in this, as in every petition, be filled with the assurance that prayer, offered in a loving faith in the living God, will bring a sure and abundant answer. Amen.
Original by Andrew Murray
Revised and Updated by Nathan Zipfel