Prayer can be funny because it messes with your pride. I admit it, I have a hard time asking for help. Asking God to change me is tough enough, asking others to pray for God to change me is something I don't do. I may ask others to pray for my circumstances, but to pray for me to change is tough because that involves admitting to other people I need to change. It is a vulnerability which is tough to face. But last month a group of us Crosswalkers went to a missions conference in San Diego and everything changed for me because of Matthew 9:36-38: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
In this passage, Jesus is traveling around sharing the Good News and there are crowds gathering to hear Him. As it starts in verse 36, it is important to note that Jesus had compassion for the crowds - that is where it starts, He cared about them and wanted to help them. They needed guidance, they needed leadership. He knew His short visit to these lost sheep would not be everything they needed. He wanted to provide them with guidance because He cared for them. He wanted to "send out" workers who could be with the crowds. Important to note that the word used here for "send out" is the Greek ekballo and "send out" is not nearly strong enough. Ekballo is to violently throw, to cast out. This isn't sending out an e-mail. Some translations use "release" - but this is not release as you would a fish. Ekballo is like an athlete releasing a javelin; like a pitcher hurling a pitch. Think of that imagery for a minute and what Jesus was conveying by using ekballo. I don't know about you but I see a missionary being sent like a weapon towards the enemy.
Now, Jesus could have easily stayed with the crowds and been the shepherd they needed. Or He could have told the disciples to do so. But what is interesting is that He told them to ask God for workers to ekballo to the fields. Why does He tell His disciples to pray? Why doesn't He pray Himself? A prayer from the Son of God is certainly more effective than any prayer the disciples could have said. And isn't the Lord of the harvest aware of the need already? If not, isn't it "on God's time"? I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that Jesus knew prayer was needed and would help - and it is not just a request, it is a command.
Author and missionary Andrew Murray says this about the Matthew 9:38 prayer: "Without this prayer, fields ready for reaping will be left to perish. And yet it is so. The Lord has surrendered His work to His Church. He has made Himself dependent on them as His Body, through whom His work must be done. The power which the Lord gives His people to exercise in heaven and earth is real; the number of laborers and the measure of the harvest does actually depend on their prayer." In other words, the number of workers in the field is directly related to our prayers. We must pray in order for the harvest to be plentiful. So the question becomes "are you praying for workers?"
Now this is great but what does it have to do with my pride and prayer? Well, as many of you know, my wife Alise and I are drawn to being missionaries internationally. We have essentially structured our lives towards this future goal. But we also feel like God is holding us back for now, which is fine because we love being here and workers are needed everywhere. In this time of waiting and preparation though, we have not asked many people to pray for us. It's a tough thing to ask for. It's not easy to admit that we need prayer. We all love to pray for other people because often their problems seem more significant than our own. Maybe we even think that we can do it on our own. But that isn't the case - the workers need your prayers. And as followers of Christ we are all workers in His field. So here I am asking that while you pray to God to ekballo workers, please include us in your prayers. The workers of the fields need your prayers.
Trying to Follow,