Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.
The opening lines of this chapter struck me forcefully:
THE Lord frequently taught His disciples that they must pray, and how; but seldom what to pray. This he left to their sense of need, and the leading of the Spirit. But here we have one thing He expressly enjoins them to remember: in view of the plenteous harvest, and the need of reapers, they must cry to the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers.
Dr. Murray is right, rarely do we hear Jesus telling us what to pray. How can it be then, that I have so easily overlooked this simple, direct command? The answer is something I know, but don't want to admit. In prayer, as in life, I am largely concerned only with my own needs. Praying for laborers for the harvest is outside the circle of my urgency. I, me, and mine is at the center of my focus.
But this is not the way of my Lord. The Lord's great compassion moves Him to look for provision for the lost and hurting.
Prayer is no form or show. The Lord Jesus was Himself the truth; everything He spake was the deepest truth. It was when (see ver. 36) ‘He saw the multitude, and was moved with compassion on them, because they were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,’ that He called on the disciples to pray for labourers to be sent among them. He did so because He really believed that their prayer was needed, and would help.
There are questions here and I don’t pretend to plumb the depths of the theological implications of this chapter. In terms of prayer and my response, it is enough for me to know that Christ has specifically urged His disciples to pray for workers. For now, the intricate dance between providence and petition, between sovereignty and supply can be left to mystery.
Dr. Murray teaches that,
“The God who entrusted them with the work, and made it to so large extent dependent on them, gives them authority to apply to Him for labourers to help, and makes the supply dependent on their prayer.”
Do we have not a harvest of righteousness because we ask not?
“…how little [Christians] believe that our labour-supply depends on prayer, that prayer will really provide ‘as many as he needeth.’ Not that the dearth of labour is not known or discussed. Not that the efforts are not sometimes put forth to supply the want. But how little the burden […] is really borne in the faith that the Lord of the harvest will, in answer to prayer, send forth the labourers…”
Dr. Murray goes on to tell us that our lack of obedience in this area is because of two reasons: one, we do not have compassion for the lost as Christ did. Two, we don’t believe in the power of prayer.
Christ’s words echo through history and pierce: “O ye of little faith.”
Might we gather our faith and take up the work of the Lord as He urged us to do? For there is another miracle waiting in the wings of this prayer. As we pray for laborers, we discover that we are each of us laborers too. The school of prayer will transform us into co-laborers in the Kingdom of God.
"Let us set apart time and give ourselves to this part of our intercessory work. It will lead us into the fellowship of that compassionate heart of His that led Him to call for our prayers. It will elevate us to the insight of our regal position, as those whose will counts for something with the great God in the advancement of His Kingdom. It will make us feel how really we are God’s fellow-workers on earth, to whom a share in His work has in downright earnest been entrusted. It will make us partakers in the soul travail, but also in the soul satisfaction of Jesus, as we know how, in answer to our prayer, blessing has been given that otherwise would not have come."
Over the weeks of our study we have learned to come to the Lord's presence daily, we have added the Lord's Prayer to our routines, we have begun to trust the Fatherhood and Friendship of God. Now let us add the prayer He has specifically asked us to pray. Will you commit with me to ask the Lord for workers every day this week?
Let us pray.
Once again we are astounded by Your grace. What mercy is this that You have invited us into the labor of Your Kingdom?
We don't pretend to fully understand Your Fatherhood, or Your Friendship, or this tying of Your provision to our prayers, but we want to respond to Your teaching with a heart that says 'Yes.' So we ask You: Lord, send workers into the fields. Provide for Your harvest. Raise up people who are ready to labor beside You in the kingdom this very day.
Lord, give us Your own compassion and love for the waiting ones. Give us Your own urgency and desire to see them brought safely into Your kingdom. May our eyes be turned away from the narrow center of ourselves and turned out to see as You do, Lord, to look upon the hurting and the needy with Your very love and tenderness. Send Your workers, Lord. Make US Your workers, Lord.
In the press of every, ordinary day, help us not to forget the mysteries You are teaching us. Bring them to mind and open our understanding daily, we pray.
In the precious name of Jesus,
Next week I'll be sharing my thoughts on Chapter Ten - "What Wilt Thou?" or Prayer Must Be Definite.