Vol. 5, No. 8
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Every once in a while one hears those sorts of statements that press him to do two things: 1) Examine his own soul, and 2) Pass the thought-provoking message on to others. A few weeks ago I heard such a statement. The study of the hour had taken folks to the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, and verse two. The verse records Jesus' words to the seventy on the Limited Commission: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2, NKJV). One person observed what he had heard another always say about this verse: "It is the most neglected command in all the Bible."
It doesn't take long to catch on to what is meant by that statement, does it? There are a couple of implications: First, a person can be tempted by the lure of routine to consistently ask for material things, and end up neglecting the spiritual. Prayers can sound more like holiday wish lists than humble presentations of oneself for service to an Almighty God. One might ask himself, by way of examination, how often he prays for good weather, a good job, and good food and compare the results to how often he asks for wisdom and help in spiritual growth.
Then, a step further along the same line is the second implication. How often does one pray for lost souls, and workers to harvest those ready to receive the Gospel? That's the primary import of Jesus' statement. He wanted his disciples, in their prayers, to recognize that there would be those who would be receptive to the message. And, he wanted them to pray that there would be plenty of workers to take the message, teach it and help the folks who wanted to obey. Is this kind of thinking really rare among Christians? Is this kind of prayer all that uncommon? Is the command to offer this kind of prayer really the most neglected command in all of the Bible?
It might be argued that this command, in its original wording, was given to those seventy and no more. To so excuse the modern Christian from such responsibility is to ignore the Great Commission, applicable to all faithful, obedient believers in Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:45-47; Mark 16:15-16). It is true -- a successful course of evangelism has prayer for such at its core.
I remember another incident where a missionary was commenting upon his study of this verse. He said that when he took to praying that the Lord would send laborers for the harvest, he was awfully surprised to find himself feeling compelled to be one of those laborers. He did not mean there was a miraculous call. He just realized his responsibility to do what he could. He had opportunities on the mission field. When he prayed for laborers, his prayer was answered in the affirmative with at least one -- him.
The apostle Paul made this kind of prayer -- of calling to action the people with the ability and willingness to help the lost -- a bit more personal with these words:
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2-4, NKJV).
What a noble prayer, backed up by the foundation of Paul's evangelistic life.
As I mentioned, this unique statement was the kind that one wants to share. It is the kind that causes one to examine himself. Am I so praying, or do I neglect in this arena? Am I one who is so concerned for the lost that I open my mouth on their behalf when I bow my head to talk to God? Am I one that prays for the boldness and the wisdom of speech necessary to open my mouth on God's behalf when I speak to those who do not yet know him?
Then, I might proceed a step further and ask myself if I am praying for those who are already laboring, especially in difficult situations. Most of us know of folks who risk their lives and at least temporarily sacrifice their freedoms to carry the Gospel to deprived but receptive third world countries. Those good brethren surely don't mind if we petition God for their safety and success. A heart of evangelism seems to begin with a word of prayer.