03 Prayer as work

Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:38)

When Jesus took leave of the eleven apostles at the ascension, He entrusted to them a superhuman task. He charged them to go and make Christworshippers of all the nations. They were to begin in Jerusalem, He had said. That was not far away. The city lay at the foot of Mount Olivet, and they could see it from where they were standing. In the city were the executioners of Jesus, with His innocent blood upon their hands, ready to annihilate everyone who dared to mention the name of the Nazarene publicly. And even though the Eleven should be fortunate enough to escape these murderers, what did they have to preach? A crucified Messiah, a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.

As they looked westward from Mount Olivet beyond the Mediterranean Sea towards Rome, the centre of the world, the outlook appeared no brighter. There they would be confronted by the strongest empire which had ever been welded together, the mightiest culture and the richest intellectual life which the world has known to this day. It was almost irony to send out out from Galilee eleven common labourers to win this mighty cultural empire for Christ. True, their number was later augmented by an academically trained co-labourer, Paul; but he, too, said that he was determined not to know anything or preaching anything, even in the great cultural centres, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

But He who sent them knew what He was doing. He had equipped them for their superhuman task in a twofold manner. Objectively, He had equipped them with the Messianic gift itself, the Holy Spirit, through whom the powers of the whole celestial world were put at the disposal of the little Christian congregation. Subjectively, He had equipped them with prayer, the means by which all of these objective celestial powers are imparted to the individual believer and to the congregation.

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19)

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Matthew 17:20)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6)

He who sent them knew that this weapon, this piece of equipment, would make them invincible. “Nothing shall be impossible unto you” were His words. When at His ascension He took leave of His friends as far as His physical presence was concerned, He extended His almighty arm so far down that we insignificant and sinful men can reach it every time we bend our knees inprayer. Whenever we touch His almighty arm, some of His omnipotence streams upon us. into our souls and into our bodies. And nott only that, but, through us, it streams out to others.

It is our Lord’s will that we who have received access to these powers through prayer should go through this world transmitting heavenly power to every corner corner of a world which sorely needs it. Our lives should be, according to our Lord’s plans, quiet, but steadily flowing, streams of blessing, which through our prayers and intercessions should reach our whole environment. And it is taken for granted that we, too, like His friends, will “begin at Jerusalem” and then go farther and farther “unto the uttermost parts of the earth“.

It is His will that we should begin at home. As we go in and out among our dear ones day by day, we should transmit to them by intercessory wireless that supernatural power which will enable them to lead victorious lives and which will put thanksgiving and joy into their hearts and upon their lips, instead of a series of disheartening defeats, bringing discouragement to both body and soul. For God hears prayers. Heaven itself would come down to our homes. And even though we who constitute the home all have our imperfections and our failings, our home would, through God’s answer to prayer, become a little paradise.

It is our Lord’s will also that we should include our neighbours in our prayers. As soon as we see them in the morning we should say to God, “Lord, bless my neighbours today. Give them according to their several needs!” Yet how unhappy the relationship between neighbours often is! As a rule trouble begins with little things, either a fence or a piece of road. First misunderstanding, then offence, then unfriendliness, then enmity, and finally a lawsuit. If we will employ the holy magic of intercession, our relations will gradually become amicable even with neighbours who are otherwise obdurate and difficult to deal with.

Wherever we go, we meet people who are in need of something. If the Spirit could give us that open eye of love which sees both visible and invisible needs, everything we saw would give raise to prayer. We would turn to the Lord and tell Him the needs both of our friends and of our enemies. That is how He would like to have us pray. It is written, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Prayer is the most important work in the kingdom of God. It is our Lord’s will that we should enter into this work as soon as we have been won for God. We should by prayer enter into the work which has been begun by our Christian parents and for which they have sacrificed, striven and prayed. We should enter and build upon their work, first and foremost by means of prayer. Remember what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 9:37-38: Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. Our first task is to get the workers whom the Lord desires for the various tasks in His vineyard. Let us particularly notice that this should be done by means of prayer.

A part of our labour in prayer must also be devoted to our leaders. They have a great responsibility. A leader must have not only wisdom and experience, but also great personal courage, enabling him to dare to act according to his own convictions and not merely the desires of a majority. It often requires a great deal of strength and perseverance to carry out the things one believes to be the will of God, and to do so even when the opposition is triumphant and friends grow weary.

We should also pray for those who preach, for the ministers and the evangelists. It is hard to be a preacher. In the first place, there is a great responsibility involved in preaching the gospel, in rightly dividing the Word. In the next place, a preacher is exposed to unusually many and great temptations. In particular he is tempted along two lines, either to conceit or to discouragement, depending upon how well he succeeds or how badly he fails in his work as a preacher. If you hear preachers who appear to you to have become conceited, pray God earnestly that they may become so humble and poor in spirit that they can feed the flock of God. On the other hand, if you hear a preacher who is getting discouraged, ask God to give him new courage.

Finally, we have intercessory prayer for the unconverted. This part of our labour in prayer is perhaps the one we understand best and carry out best. Most believers long for a spiritual awakening. To desire to see souls saved is the impelling motive in nearly all the Christian work of our day. In this respect awakenings are always the order of the day now. People speak a great deal about revivals; much is done to bring them about also, and not a little praying is done with this in mind. We notice, too, that God now and then sends us an awakening. Nevertheless, awakenings occur very seldom. The work of the Spirit can often be compered to mining. The Spirit can blast a sinner’s hardness of heart to pieces, but it often takes time and planning to bore the holes in which to put the dynamite.

Still, we keep praying, and God answers prayer. It is a job we have to do as Christians. Through it, we can be strengthened by the Spirit, and He can lead us and guide us where we ought to go.

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