Summary: A look at the evangelism prayer that Jesus told us to pray (but we don't) as well as five of the reasons we need this prayer.
THE SIMPLE, OBVIOUS, PATHETIC, MYSTIFYING TRUTH: We do not pray this prayer.
- Matthew 9:38.
- I do not have an explanation for this.
- It’s not hard to do. It’s not hard to understand. It’s not controversial. Yet it’s rare that any of us pray this prayer at all. It’s even more rare that a church will focus on this prayer and tenaciously cling to it until they see results.
- I don’t know why. It’s simple. It’s obvious. It’s pathetic that we don’t. It’s mystifying that we ignore it. Yet we do.
- More often when we pray about evangelism and witnessing, we pray for lost. We pray for our church to grow. We pray for open doors. But we don’t pray for God to send us workers.
- The workers could come by God raising up people within our church. The workers could come by God bringing people to our church. But in either case, the specific prayer we’ve been told to pray is for workers.
- We sometimes do lots of other evangelism stuff: host seminars, preach sermons (like this one!), read books, etc. But we don’t pray this prayer.
- Now, this is not the answer you’ll get if you ask people about how to see more people saved within your church.
- “Why aren’t we seeing more people saved?” Likely answers:
a. People just aren’t interested in the Lord anymore.
b. We need more training.
c. People are just busy with the world today.
d. It’s different than it used to be.
- One possible reason we don’t: it sounds a little insulting and embarrassing.
- When you’re in church and pray this prayer, you’re implicitly criticizing the people who are there. They either aren’t harvest workers or at least enough of them aren’t that we need to pray for more.
- Most evangelism prayers focus on the problems out there: the unsaved people are the problem (they don’t want it) or the world is the problem (it’s draw is too strong).
- This prayer points back to us as the problem. It’s a little uncomfortable.
- Every time we pray this, we’re acknowledging that those of us here aren’t seeing the results we want.
- Having 100 people in your church on a Sunday morning is not the same as having 100 harvest workers. Not even close.
- You might just need two or three harvest workers to make a difference in a church. Just a handful committed to seeing the lost come home.
- This is why Jesus said the workers are few – there aren’t many interested in laboring.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT WE DO THIS?
1. Our harvest expectations are low.
- Matthew 9:37 – “The harvest is plentiful. . .”
- The first thing Jesus says here is almost unbelievable: the harvest is plentiful.
- Really? Seriously? Where?
- We have become accustomed to a dribble of salvations within our churches. Seeing a handful within a year get baptized is “pretty good.”
- I remember one of the first times I looked through the WVBC Annual Report. I expected the smaller churches to have lower numbers of salvations and baptisms, but two things really hit me:
a. First was the overwhelming number of small country churches that had no baptisms.
- It was maybe 50% of those churches who had nothing. Nothing.
b. Second was that even the big churches still had relatively few baptisms.
- Churches with 300 or 500 people might have had 10-20 baptisms.
- And I couldn’t find any “breakout” churches with signs of an outpouring of the Spirit.
- We think that drought is normal.
- We have come to accept that this is just the way it is and we have no expectations of great things.
- In fact, it can get to the place where we question the methods of churches that are seeing a great harvest.
- “They must be doing something Biblically wrong to see those kinds of results.” It sounds like the things the Pharisees said when Jesus drew great crowds.
- This is important (among other reasons) because of how often Jesus emphasized the need for faith.
- People with faith see prayers answered that people without faith don’t see answered. Faith moves mountains. Doubting and praying with a vague “hope” bring little results.
- So it’s not surprising that we aren’t seeing much in the way of results. We get so little because we expect so little.
- What would it be like if we became unsatisfied with anything other than an abundant harvest?
- What if every baptism caused us to go to the altar at the close of worship and cry out, “Thank you, Lord, but we want more”?
- What if we expected to be overwhelmed?