By Pastor Lane Davis
Jesus said that we should “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest…” (Matthew 9:38). The Greek word for earnestly is deomai, which means; desire, long for, ask, beg. So, when we pray to the Lord of the harvest, we should pray in earnest with strong desire, a longing for, and yes, even begging in faith for the lost and for labourers, placing our trust in the trustworthiness of the One in whom we believe.
The New Testament Model: Prayer that Leads to Evangelism
Armin Gesswein, known as “the apostle of prayer and revival,” explains the inseparability of prayer and evangelism in the New Testament:
“Prayer is the lifeline of New Testament evangelism, the oxygen for its holy fire. The New Testament was born in prayer. It knows no evangelism without prayer, and no prayer which does not lead to evangelism.” (1)
Samuel Zwemer, known as the “apostle to Islam” understood the need for prayer and proclamation:
“We must not forget that the supreme ministry is the ministry of prayer. It is possible for all everywhere and at all times; it is an omnipotent ministry.”
“We pray for our friends and relatives. But do we ever evangelize them? It is so much easier to talk about them to Christ than to talk to them, about Christ.”
“If faithfully, fearlessly, sympathetically, we preach Christ crucified, He can make the stumbling block of the cross a stepping stone for the Muslims into His kingdom…more than this, the cross will win their love if rightly preached.”
If we truly care about our Muslim friends, neighbours, co-workers, and fellow students, our prayers for them will be two-fold:
1) We should pray for our Muslim friends that God might do a mighty work in them that they may come to the “knowledge of the truth” and be saved (John 6:37, 44).
2) We should pray earnestly that the “Lord of the harvest will send out labourers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:39)—these labourers would include you and me, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may speak boldly, with gentleness and respect, to the lost where they are.
First, we begin by praying for the lost
The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was among you.” Paul specifically asked the church in Thessalonica to pray for another people group! He asked those who had previously received the gospel to pray for others to receive and honour the gospel. So, we see that this is not a novel idea. It has been around a long time and is the first prong of the New Testament model in bringing unbelievers to Christ.
A helpful acronym to use as a prayer model is H.E.A.R.T. (2):
H—Receptivity of Heart and opening of the mind—We must pray that the Holy Spirit will begin ‘tilling the ground’ of the Muslim heart and opening their mind to the truth (Proverbs 16:1), so that when they hear God’s Word, the seed will fall on ground that is prepared and receptive. This preparation may begin with a dream, or through the realization that Muhammad lacked the character and conduct of a godly man, or receiving a copy of the New Testament and experiencing Jesus for the first time, or that the Qur’an offers no assurance of salvation, etc. As one Muslim background believer stated, “Only when I read the Qur’an in my own language, did I realize how lost I was.” Another Muslim background believer said, “I received a Bible…days later, I started reading the New Testament and fell in love with the character of Jesus. As a Muslim, I knew of Jesus, but I was unfamiliar with the miracles he had performed and the claims he had made about his status as God’s Son. Within months, I had read the Bible in its entirety. Then I read it a few more times. The more I read, the more I saw God as my true and loving Father.”
E—That God would open the spiritual Eyes of our Muslim friends. As Paul presented his commission from the Lord to king Agrippa, “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). As Samuel Zwemer noted, “He (the Muslim) needs to be taught Christianity and brought into the light of Bible truth. He needs to recognize the dangerous errors of his religion and turn to Christianity as the true light from heaven.”
A—God’s Attitude towards sin. Muslims reject the doctrine of original sin, and as such believe that sin is not hereditary and no one is born a sinner. Islam’s view of sin explains why Muslims reject the Christian doctrine of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will convict our Muslim friends of their sin (John 16:8–11), and reveal to them their lostness and hopelessness without the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5–6).
R—Released to know and trust Christ. Jesus affirmed His messianic mission of releasing the spiritual captives and oppressed: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…to proclaim liberty (release/freedom) to the captives…to set at liberty (release) those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). We must pray that our Muslim friends will be released from seeing Isa/Jesus as only a prophet, and that their eyes will be opened to see Jesus for who He truly is, the Jesus of the New Testament who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Then Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31–32; 36)
T—A life Transformed by the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” And in Colossians 3 we are told, “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (v. 10–11). Once our Muslim friends have come to faith in Christ, we need to pray that He will bestow upon them the courage and perseverance to follow Jesus, even when it potentially means loss of family, future, or even life.
Second, “…therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38)
Pray for Workers—this is our most basic prayer.
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:37-38)
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’ Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’” (John 4:35–37)
Jesus could not have been clearer—it is never the harvest that is lacking, the lack is in the labor force, and this is where Jesus says to focus our prayers. We must strive to be imitators of Paul as he was of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; 4:16) by taking up our office of ambassadorship, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Let us not say, “Here I am Lord, send my brother or sister,” but instead, let us boldly claim as Isaiah did, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).
We must pray that the Lord will raise up more labourers in the Church, that more and more Christians will embrace