When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

                                                                        Matthew 9:36-38


“Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 


Why is it necessary to pray to the Father to send out laborers?  Why doesn’t the Father just raise them up and send them out?  God is sovereign.  God can do anything he wants to.  What’s the need of our prayers?


So we tend to slide over this command of Jesus as if it’s not really that important.  After all, God sees the mess out there.  The multitudes wandering around like sheep without a shepherd.  He sees the suffering, the emptiness of so much human striving.  We don’t have to tell God.  He knows what’s going on in this weird world better than we do.


And yet….in this strange command to his disciples---to us---Jesus reveals the mystery of the kingdom of God.  It is necessary for us to pray for laborers in the harvest.  Because, for reasons of his own, the Father has tied that harvest to our prayers.  


Every life-giving, cleansing, healing thing that God does on this sin-sick planet is somehow tied to the prayers of his reborn sons and daughters. 


If Uncle Ned is going to finally hear the truth about God---truth to which he has been deaf through 57 years of church going---the messenger who gets through to this man is going to be the answer to someone’s prayers.


If Francina and Marina, these two sisters who haven’t spoken to each other for 15 years, are going to allow the Lord Jesus, whom they both claim to serve, to bring them back together, the prophet who accomplishes this miracle will be an answer to prayer.


If the Body of Christ, so weak and so sick in so many places, is going to experience cleansing fire and healing light, it will be through a burning word flowing from someone’s lips in answer to prayer.


If the masses of young adults in the city where you live, who haven’t a clue about God, are going to find the road that leads from Vanity to Reality, it will be because laborers with prophetic power are sent out to them by the living God in answer to prayer.


When our Lord Jesus looked at those harassed and helpless crowds, he could have said, “Be of good cheer!  I’m here!  Everything’s under control.”  But he didn’t. 

Our Lord knew what he had to do for those lost sheep.  And he did it.  He went to the cross.  He took our sin upon himself and atoned for it in a bloody death.  Then he opened the door to new life with his resurrection.


But Jesus also made clear to his disciples what they had to do---what we have to do:


“Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”


That’s the first thing we have to do. 


Before we try to witness to one soul… 

Before we offer healing and forgiveness to a single lost sheep…. 


            We are commanded by the Lamb of God to pray for laborers.


Because prayer is the key.  Prayer is the most important thing---the real work.


Funny, Jesus never told us how to heal the sick.  He just said “Do it.” 

            Jesus never explained to us how to cast out demons.  He just said “Cast them out.”

            Jesus never taught us how to witness.  He simply said, “Go, make disciples.”


But Jesus took great pains and is even now, through the Spirit as you read these words, taking great pains to teach us how to pray…and what to pray for.


Because this is how we connect with the living God.  This is how we receive power to love our enemies, and speak the truth, and keep our eye single, and move mountains.


That’s where Jesus received his power when he was among us in flesh and blood.


That’s where we receive our power.


“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”

                                                John 15:7-8


The first prayer Jesus teaches us to pray is what we call The Lord’s Prayer.  If you think that you’re just repeating words when you say this prayer, say it in your own words.  This prayer puts you in touch with the living God, because you cannot pray this prayer intelligently without finding yourself at the Burning Bush.  Pretty soon you have to take off your shoes, because you’re on holy ground when you prayer this prayer.


            Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

                        Off come the shoes.

            Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This prayer offered up to the Father enables him to bring the kingdom closer.

Then we pray for our daily needs.

For forgiveness do the degree that we forgive.

For help in our trials.

For deliverance from evil.


This prayer is the foundation of all prayer.  We need to pray it daily.  To think about it.  To soak it in.  Until it rules our hearts and humbles our proud souls. 


The next prayer Jesus teaches us to pray is for more of the gift of the Holy Spirit.


“Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.  And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to whose who ask him?”

                                                                        Luke 11: 5-13


Ask for the Holy Spirit, and keep asking, until you know that the Spirit is moving in your life just as he moved in Peter or Paul or Mary Magdalene.  And once you know that the Spirit of God has begun to guide you and empower you and put God’s love in your heart, keep asking for more.  As long as we are in these bodies of flesh and blood the cry for more of the Spirit never stops.


And then Jesus teaches us---commands us---to pray for laborers in the harvest.


“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”


                        ….Because when you pray this prayer, the Lord of the harvest responds.

Things happen.  The dry bones begin to shake and stir and come together.  Flesh covers them.  The Spirit breathes life into them.  They rise to their feet and begin to move out with a message on their lips and in their hearts.


We look out over the city where we live and see people speeding in all directions.  Everybody’s in a hurry to get somewhere.  Everybody has an agenda.  They’re out there pursuing happiness the best way they know how, whether it’s the flea market or the casino or the grocery store.  And this is the harvest?


The Lord Jesus answers, “That’s the harvest.  And it’s plentiful.  And it’s in great need.”  He has compassion for them, because, for all their shiny cars, and sporty clothes, and Starbucks coffee cups, rich or poor, they’re harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 


            And when they hear a prophetic word, some of them will stop and listen.

            And when they see true light, some will stumble toward it.


Don’t try to give them platitudes.  They can smell hypocrisy ten miles away.  Religion doesn’t interest them.  Pious words don’t interest them.  Moralizing turns them off. 


But when someone comes to them with words drenched in God’s Spirit, a harvest takes place.


            Those who have ears to hear, begin to listen.

            And soon they’re walking through the door, right in the kingdom of God.


And it all depends on one thing:


            ---not our money,

            ---not our cleverness,

            ---not our eloquence,

            ---not our skill,


                        our prayers.


                                    “Pray the Lord of the Harvest…!


This is one thing each of us can do.  You don’t have to go to seminary to learn to pray.  Nobody ever leaned to pray in seminary.  You don’t have to read a hundred books about prayer.  All you have to do is pray.


Do it.  Not just today.  Not just tomorrow.  But every day for the rest of your life.  Make it your Number One Calling under the Lord  Jesus.  “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Every day.   Every single day.


Do this, and you will see things happen, not only out there in the harvest field, but also in the depths of your own heart.  God himself will open your eyes to see what the prophets of old longed to see, and never saw.


In the Spirit, you will behold the King in his glory.

You will see the harvest ripe and ready.

You will see reapers at work gathering fruit for eternal life.

You may even see yourself among them.


When he saw the crowds

at the mall,

the sportsplex,

the airport,

the hospital,

the nursing home,

the bar,

the school,

the street corner,

he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.


Then he said to his disciples in the fellowship where you serve, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”