Ask the Lord of Harvest
There is most certainly a direct correlation between being a successful disciple of Jesus and prayer. As children of God, we are the most blessed and privileged people on earth. Our gain in Him by far outweighs the riches of the world. When all is considered, including the spiritual side, and our eternal inheritance reserved in the heavens, by comparison the richest billionaire on earth is very poor indeed.
“And Jesus was going about to all the cities and the villages teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness... These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them saying, '...but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” (Matthew 9:35-10:7).
“Beseech the Lord of Harvest”
“And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
Jesus could not walk through the crowds of people without being touched by the human condition. The lives of these people had been adversely effected by disease and sickness. Increasing the misery was the spiritual hopelessness that led to their distress and despair. They were a spiritually bankrupt people. They needed something, but they were not sure exactly what. But Jesus knew.
The scene we have just described is not one limited to the first century. It describes our own time as well. But what can one do? The righteous are so few. There are so many lost. Society is so corrupt, and seemingly growing worse.
The answer: One does today what Jesus did in the first century. Today the harvest is still plentiful (there are still lots of people who need to hear about Jesus). The workers are still few (Not very many know or care enough about Jesus to do what He says). So, we need to “beseech the Lord of harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
The Prayer for Workers is Answered
“These twelve Jesus sent out...” (Matthew 10:5). Jesus had urged His apostles to plead to God for workers. He then summoned them together and essentially told them, “Guess what! The Lord of harvest has answered our prayer for workers!” Great news! Where are they? We need them! What are their names? Well, their names can be found in Matthew 10:2-4. Wait a minute! Those are the names of the apostles!
That's correct. See the point? They were to both beseech the Lord of harvest for workers, and then become, at least in part, the answers to their own prayers by becoming workers themselves. Jesus is essentially telling them that they are the workers God has sent. Today it is us! Today, because we live in similar circumstances with similar needs, we should respond to this need by; “Beseeching the Lord of harvest to send workers in His harvest” and then become “workers” in His harvest ourselves.
Instructions for Workers
While there are several similarities between the conditions described in our text and conditions that exist today, there are also some differences which must be noted with care. The obvious ones are the apostolic power, or authority, which was given to these twelve which are not given to us, along with the “signs of an apostle” (miraculous healing, etc.) of which they were capable and we are not (Matthew 10:1-4; 8 cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3,4). Also, Jesus sent them only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and not “in the way of the Gentiles” or “any city of the Samaritans” (Matthew 10:5,6). Later, He would send workers into the whole world and to every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). They were also told to travel light, taking no money, bag, a change of clothes, staff and so forth. They were to, instead, depend on the support of those in the land interested in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 10:9-10).
Though this last requirement is no longer made of workers, there is still a lesson to be drawn from it. Workers need to have the kind of faith as these twelve had. Sometimes, being a worker in the Lord's harvest calls for great faith and commitment. We must love Him enough to say, “Lord, whatever it takes, I will give it to fulfill my role as a worker in Your harvest!” Indeed, the harvest is still plentiful, and the workers are still few. Can the Lord count on you?
Prayer and Early Church Growth
The New Testament Book of Acts is the place to go to find out about the early church. The growth of the early church from the Day of Pentecost (recorded in Acts 2) to the conclusion of the Book of Acts many years later is nothing short of phenomenal. Not only is there much work being done by the increasing numbers of workers in the harvest, but we find the early Christians combining their efforts with their prayers to the Lord of harvest (Acts 2:41,42, 46-47; 4:23-31; 6:1-5, 6-7; 9:27-28,31; 13:1-3; cf. Ephesians 6:18).
As the disciples, about 120 in number, awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit at Jerusalem, and conscious of the great task that lay before them, they spent much time in prayer (Acts 1:14). They were waiting as the Lord had instructed them. The time to wait ended when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost. From our standpoint, the time to wait has long since passed. It is now time for action, coupled with prayer. Prayer is effective. It changes things. The fields are ready. Go out into the fields and work, pray to the Lord of harvest, and see His wonderful answer come.
Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 21.9; September 2014