World systems are stretched to the breaking point. These are days of difficulty and pain. And it will get worse — if not now, then soon. But there is good news. God has made it possible for human beings to connect with Him, hear His words, and know His thoughts. He wants to adopt people into His family. And, human nature being what it is, difficulty and pain make people more likely to hear God’s words. For those of us who long to see strangers and loved ones alike become part of God’s forever family, the difficulties of our time provide a unique opportunity.
In Matthew 9, we see Jesus going from town to town, healing the sick and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. The miraculous healings drew big crowds. Some people came because they wanted to be healed, while others just came for the big show. They were all sinners. In some cases, they were there with bad motivations. Most were poor and needy. Glamorous, they were not.
But as the old song goes, Jesus saw beyond their faults and saw their needs. Matthew 9:36 says, “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.” Sheep without a shepherd wander aimlessly in hope of food. They are susceptible to attacks from predators. They’re frightened and lost. Without the Good Shepherd, people are like that, too.
The Bible says Jesus felt “compassion.” The Greek here speaks of being deeply moved. It says that Jesus felt strong emotion as he looked out over them, aware of their pain and helplessness. In response, Jesus gave His disciples a direct command. In Matthew 9:37-38, He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
This is not a “prayer request.” It is a “prayer command.” Jesus told them (and us) to pray that God would send forth laborers into the harvest. That means to ask God to send people into the world with God’s message of grace. It doesn’t just mean send speakers, but all kinds of laborers. Carpenters working in the kingdom of God send the message of grace. So do secretaries, artists, truck drivers, computer technicians, and all manner of laborers working on foreign mission fields, in local churches, and in lots of other ways.
We have the message that the world desperately needs. And we have that message at an hour when more and more people are beginning to realize that they have a need. They may not have identified the need. But when they hear the gospel, millions of them will have an ah-ha moment. They will say, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been missing and needing!”
The devil responds by trying to keep Christians focused solely on themselves and their own needs. He works to weaken and compromise them. He does everything he can to keep the laborers away from the harvest. And if he cannot keep them away, he has a plan B — make them ineffective.
When you pray that the Lord will send forth laborers into the harvest, you are not just praying for young people, but Christians of all ages and backgrounds. You are praying for their health, vigor, and for their financial needs to be met. You are praying that believers arm themselves with the word of God and with the shield of faith. You are praying that obstacles to service be removed and that believers be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
You are praying for all your fellow believers in Jesus, and you are praying for yourself.