If Jesus asked you to pray earnestly about something , would you do it?
That’s exactly what he did when he saw the need for more people to preach the gospel and heal the sick. He told his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest [God] to send more workers to help.
Jesus was always on the move
He went from village, to town, to city, teaching in synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and disease (see Matthew 9:35).
But there was so much to do. So many people to reach with his message. He needed help. He implored 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 ESV
Jesus is right. The harvest is plentiful. His words are as true today as they were when he first uttered them.
The world is desperately calling out for help. Do we even hear those cries for help, cries that the world’s material ways and means can never supply?
The need is great
There are so many people in the world who need to know God loves them.
There are lots prodigal sons and daughters, chasing after the glitter of the world. They’re allured by the dazzle of immediate, self-gratification.
Others are victims of abuse, or mired in the quicksand of misery.
Or they’re caught up in their mistakes. They and don’t know how to escape or have given up even trying.
Some people are engulfed by an egotistical approach to life.
And some people are just looking for honest answers. They’re searching for what is true and good.
There’s a lot of unease and uncertainty in people’s hearts these days.
The valley of decision
The prophet Joel actually foretold this same restlessness and readiness of some people to discover their need for Truth:
Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. Joel 3:14 ESV
Some search for Truth because they have a genuine desire to know what is real.
Others search because they are in pain, physically, emotionally, and morally.
The multitudes in the “valley of decision” are searching for answers.
And the world responds with a vast array of so-called “solutions” that promise but can never deliver relief, health, peace of mind, and certainly not salvation.
Who is going to help these people?
Most of us hardly notice them even though they’re right under our noses.
We pass them on the sidewalk. We sit next to them at school. They’re on our team at work. They’re in front of us in the grocery store check out line.
But we usually don’t hear their silent cries for help. And if we do, we don’t want to get involved in someone’s problems and have to deal with their drama.
But Jesus always heard their cried for help. And he responded. They were the very people he came to help.
Jesus often went specifically to minister to folks who needed help the most, the ones you and I might avoid.
He ate dinner with sinners. He healed the lepers and other social outcasts.
This was totally taboo with the religious leaders of his day, just as it is with some religious leaders of our day, who tell us we should only associate with other Christians who believe exactly as we do.
If we only talk to Christians…
Hello! If we only talk to other Christians who believe exactly like we do, how will the Church grow? How will we help those who need help?
If Jesus had only ministered to the well-healed members of society, we might not be following him today.
After Jesus ascended, if his 120 followers in that upper room had shared their faith only among themselves, Christianity probably wouldn’t even exist today.
There are so many opportunities today to minister to those in need.
And there’s no way one person or just a few people can do it. This was true in Jesus’s day too.
Jesus knew the need was great
Jesus had been out preaching and healing. He saw the multitudes and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. (See Matthew 9:35, 36)
So he sent 12 disciples out to preach and heal as well. Later he sent out 70 more disciples (some ancient manuscripts say there were 72) to heal and declare the Gospel of the kingdom.
Why didn’t Jesus just go to all these people and places himself?
Well, there was a lot to do and Luke tells us that Jesus sent the group of 70/72 to preach and heal in the cities he was about to visit.
Imagine if someone came to your town and started saying incredible things about the kingdom of heaven being at hand and healing all the sick people through prayer.
And what if they told you their teacher was coming in a few days. Would you want to go hear that teacher?
Jesus sent his disciples out to help prepare the hearts of the people for his message. But there was another reason he sent his followers out to preach and heal.
Jesus empowered his disciples
Part of his mission on earth was to empower his followers to share his message and to give them opportunities to do so.
This includes you and me today. It’s more than one person can do. Or 12. Or 70. Or 120. Or 5,000. We need help.
Jesus knew this was true for his disciples and that it would be true for us today.
So he instructed his disciples, not only the 12 but also the 70, to pray earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send more harvest workers into the field.
Pray to the Lord of the harvest
The Greek word for “pray” in this passage is deomai. It is not the usual word for prayer, as when Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray with the Lord’s Prayer.
Deomai means to implore, the beseech, to pray earnestly. That’s why the ESV translation, translates it, “pray earnestly.”
Have you prayed earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the harvest field? If not, I encourage you to.
Usually when I pray for more harvest workers, I hear God’s sometimes gentle, sometimes firm voice, “Okay, you’re it. I send you. Get busy.” So, here I am. That’s one reason I started this website and the podcast.
That’s exactly what happens to the disciples immediately after Jesus tells them to pray for more workers in the harvest. Twelve of them get appointed to be apostles and Jesus sends them out to “work in the harvest field.”
So when you pray for God to send more workers into the field, don’t be surprised if He sends you.
Jesus prepares his disciples
But Jesus didn’t just send his disciples on their way without preparing them. They had seen him preach and heal. But now, he gave very specific instructions on what to say, what to do, and how to behave. You can read that in Matthew 9:5-42 and Luke 10:3-12.
Jesus didn’t just send them out to preach the gospel of the kingdom.
He endowed them with spiritual power and authority to heal the sick. They had seen him preach and heal. But now he was empowering them to follow his example.
As a side note, when Jesus was preaching the gospel and instructing his disciples what to say when they preached, he never said or told them to tell people they were miserable sinners, although he always was emphatic that people must repent.
Instead, he instructed his them to talk about the glory of the kingdom of heaven, which would make people want to repent.
Prayer to the Lord of the harvest
Let’s get back to what Jesus said about praying for more harvest workers and why it’s so important for us today as well.
Has it ever struck you as kind of odd that we need to ask God to send more workers into the harvest field?
If God is the “Lord of the harvest,” shouldn’t He know we need help and know who to send without us having to ask for it?
Sure, God knows everything and all our needs before we ask.
But it’s in the asking that we realize God is in charge of the harvest and that we are not. It is not for us to choose who the harvest helpers will be. God alone selects the harvest workers.
Think of Peter and Andrew, James and John. They chose to follow Jesus but they didn’t appoint themselves apostles. None of the others did either. Jesus chose and appointed them.
There are other times in the Bible when people did not choose who would do something, but were guided by God.
After Jesus ascended, the remaining 11 apostles did not choose someone to fill Judas’ place until they prayed for God to reveal to them who it should be. (See Acts 1:24-26 below)
And when the believers in Antioch were fasting and praying, “the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2 ESV)
God is the Lord of the harvest
These examples remind us that it’s not up to you and me to decide who the harvest workers are. It’s God’s harvest, not ours.
God is the Lord of the harvest and decides who will work, where to put them, and what they’ll do.
So don’t be surprised if it’s someone you might not have chosen. We can make mistakes in judgment.
When you pray to God for more workers in the harvest, you can trust God to send the people who are “perfect” for the job.
God can use anyone, flaws, warts, and all, to accomplish His will. This happens in the Bible all the time, when God chooses all types of people, who were far from perfect, to accomplish the divine purpose and help bring in “the harvest.”
How do these ideas apply to your church?
In this harvesting process, there are some things we need to remember.
Don’t compare yourself and your abilities with someone else.
God has a different part of the field for everyone to work in.
Never be jealous of where someone else is working in the harvest field.
Don’t try to harvest the part of the field God has appointed to someone else. There’s plenty for you to do right where you are with the abilities you have right now.
No one person can bring in the whole harvest. This is a joint effort.
We all have a place to serve and a function to fill.
Harvest with the mindset of Christ
Be willing to work in fellowship with others in your church, in other churches, and even in other denominations.
Do your harvest work with the mindset of Christ. Jesus was not trying to glorify himself. He always gave full glory to the Father.
If the harvest was great 2,000 years ago, it’s even greater today.
Do you hear the voice of Jesus echoing down the centuries asking you to pray to the Lord of the harvest for more workers?
Will you answer that call?
God will send you to do His work in the harvest field. God will empower you to preach the gospel and heal the sick. It may not look just like the way Jesus or his disciples did it. That’s okay.
When you have the compassion for mankind that Jesus had, you will be a blessing, and a witness to the power and presence of God’s kingdom. And you will have a healing effect.
And as you continue to pray to the Lord of the harvest, God will bring you together with others to work with.
The world is calling out for help. How will you respond?
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James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Photo credit: Melissa Askew
Matthew 9:37, 38 ESV
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:37, 38 NLT
37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.
38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Joel 3:14 ESV
14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
Acts 1:24-26 NLT
24 Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen
25 as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.”
26 Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.
Acts 13:2 ESV
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”