TRUE or FALSE: the Bible tells us to pray for people to be saved.
Have your answer? Probably, like me, you read this question and answered, “Of course we should pray for people to be saved!” I thought it was totally obvious, until our pastor said something that challenged my belief.
He told us, “God never said that we should pray for the harvest. We are to pray for workers!”
When I remembered to close my gaping mouth, I quickly looked up the verse he was referring to. It’s Matthew 9:36-38.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
A bit more research supported his point. I couldn’t find a single verse that tells us to pray for the “harvest”—those who don’t yet know God. Maybe that’s because God already has His mind made up:
… God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
Oh, there are plenty of places where we’re told to be a good example, to proclaim the good news, to make disciples. But when I think about it, they’re all are different ways to telling us to be good workers. Just as in Jesus’ day, the harvest is plentiful. All over the world, God is drawing people to Himself. People are dreaming about Jesus, or seeing him in visions. Others feel empty inside, but don’t know where to turn to be filled. The shortage isn’t in people wanting to know God. No, the problem is that there aren’t enough Christ-followers willing to explain how to find Him!
How can this be? The world is full of millions of Christians. Hasn’t God called and gifted enough people?
Perhaps the problem isn’t a shortage of the Holy Spirit, but rather a shortage of volunteers.
When you think about it, we’re all in one of two categories. Either we’re not yet a believer, in which case we’re part of the harvest, or we’re a harvester. No one in God’s kingdom is meant to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else do all the work.
We may not feel qualified. I certainly don’t. It’s a great excuse—or it was until God brought me up short with a conversation I had in Swaziland. I was chatting with my roommate, a dear lady in her late 60s. She was gushing about how wonderful it was that Pete and I are missionaries, with the implication that we were somehow more spiritual than average (hah!). The she said something about not being “good enough” to be a missionary herself; that God had just called her to love her children and grandchildren.
I looked at her, smiled, and pointed out that we were in Swaziland on a mission trip. That made her a missionary! She looked so startled, I burst out laughing.
God doesn’t just want spiritual superstars to be part of his labor force. Look at the apostles Jesus chose! Rather, He wants people who make themselves available to Him, who are willing to submit to His leading. All we have to do is say yes, then put aside our own agendas and do what He tells us to do. The only qualification we need is the Holy Spirit.
There are many ways we can be laborers sent into the harvest. Not everyone is on the front lines, nor is everyone called to make a living from the gospel. Some are called to make evangelism their primary focus, while others may have different roles. The important point is that we do what Jesus told us to do: ask God to send laborers. Just don’t be surprised when He calls you to be the answer to your prayer. As my friend pointed out, it’s hard to pray for workers without wanting to become one!