2013-05-05 Preparing for the Mission with Prayer | Matthew 9:37-38
– Mike K – missional church defines itself in terms of its worship and its mission – a worshiping people who are also “sent ones” who take the gospel to and incarnate the gospel within a specific cultural context.
– The church has a mission because Jesus has a mission. There is one mission.
– This series – Jesus prepares his disciples before sending them out into mission
– Last week – Jesus models the passion we need to overcome our apathy toward the crowds – the people who are the object of the mission
– This week – Jesus teaches his disciples the importance of prayer for accomplishing the mission to overcome our fear of failure
Matt 9:37-38. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
– Matthew shifts metaphors
– Crowds no longer as harassed and helpless sheep without a shepherd,
– Crowds are a field of grain ready to be harvested
– Disciples are reapers or workers in that field to harvest the grain
Jesus first pictures for his disciples and us –
Potential of the mission…
…when he says,“The harvest is plentiful…”
– crowds might look like a mess to us
– like lost sheep or abused and abandoned children, wandering about from church to church or alternative religions or counterfeit spiritual experiences or worldly occupations
– yet Jesus sees those same crowds as a field ready to be harvested
– just as he saw them as a school of fish ready to be caught when he said (in Mat 4.19) “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
– In Scripture a plentiful harvest indicates a time of opportunity
– Refers to the gathering God’s people in the midst of God’s judgment.
– There will be a final eschatological harvest at the end of the age as we see prophesied in Joel 3:13 and in Revelation 14:15, 19
– But there is also an ongoing harvest in every age and every culture as in
– (Jn. 4:35) 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.
– also (Mk.4:26-29) “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how…when the grain is ripe, he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
– So for Jesus’ disciples – and for us – potential for a significant positive response exists in spite of some rejection as we prepare to go proclaim the gospel
– Knowing there is the likelihood of a positive response helps us overcome our fear of failure and rejection as we share the gospel
– And because there is potential for a positive response, second, Jesus expresses his concern regarding the
Personnel for the mission
– when he says, “…but the laborers are few.”
– The harvest is so great that there is a shortage of people to reap the harvest
– So part of the goal of the mission is to expand the number of disciples who will help deliver the message to others
– This expansion includes both new converts and other believers not yet enlisted in the mission of proclaiming the gospel
– At harvest time on farm usually a window of a few days or weeks to get in a particular crop.
– So others enlisted to help – new children coming of age, outsiders, old-timers
– Paul and his friends were enlisted to go to Phillipi in a vision (Acts16:9-10). Luke writes, “He saw a man of Macedonia standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” We immediately sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
Third, Jesus promises
EmPowerment and Provision for the mission through Prayer
– when he says, “…therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
– Jesus encourages the disciples to pray – to communicate their need for additional people to God and to trust in his provision of them
– Jesus calls God the “Lord of the harvest” and says that it is “his harvest”
– As “Lord” he has power or authority over the mission;
– Because he is the owner of the mission he has control of the entire operation and decides what will happen when.
– We are empowered to pray for help as we prepare and as we carry out our mission, to freely communicate our needs to the Lord of the mission
– Like in a well-run company – employees on front lines are empowered to freely communicate with upper management regarding the needs of the operation
– They are empowered even to request additional staff if they can’t get all the work done on time, or quality of work is suffering, or there is an opportunity for growth in company.
– And just as a wise CEO provides what is needed in response to the requests of his watchful and diligent employees
– So God is faithful to provide what we need to accomplish his mission in response to our prayers
– Thus the mission’s growth is determined not only by our efforts in the field but also by prayer for God’s sovereign provision
– Why must we pray for laborers to help us?
– Because Christ has commanded us to do so
– Because God has ordained the advancement of the gospel would be through prayer and not without it.
– Because God causes the growth, As Paul, (1 Co.3:6-7) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
– Most revivals have begun in response to a season of prayer. For example,
- Edwin Orr in The Light of the Nations (pp. 103-105) writes, “In the 1850s in NYC the third great panic in American history swept much of the wealth away. Thousands of merchants were forced to the wall as banks failed and railroads went into bankruptcy. Factories were shut down and vast numbers thrown out of employment. New York City alone having 30,000 idle men.
In 1857, a quiet and zealous businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier took up an appointment as a City Missionary in down-town New York by the North Church of the Dutch Reformed denomination which was suffering from depletion of membership due to the removal of the population from the down-town to the better residential quarters, and the new City Missionary was engaged to make diligent visitation in the immediate neighborhood with a view to enlisting church attendance among the floating population of the lower city. The Dutch Consistory felt that it had appointed an ideal layman for the task in hand, and so it was.
Burdened so by the need, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. He therefore distributed a handbill:
HOW OFTEN SHALL I PRAY? As often as the language of prayer is in my heart; as often as I see my need of help; as often as I feel the power of temptation; as often as I am made sensible of any spiritual declension or feel the aggression of a worldly spirit. In prayer we leave the business of time for that of eternity, and intercourse with men for intercourse with God. A daytime Prayer Meeting is held every Wednesday, from 12 to 1 o’clock, in the Consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch Church, corner of Fulton and William Streets (entrance from Fulton and Ann Streets). This meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers, and business men generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.
Accordingly at twelve noon, September 23, 1857, the door was opened and the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation. Five minutes went by. No one appeared. The missionary paced the room in a conflict of fear and faith. Ten minutes elapsed. Still no one came. Fifteen minutes passed. Lanphier was yet alone. Twenty minutes; twenty-five; thirty; and then at 12.30 p.m., a step was heard on the stairs, and the first person appeared, then another, and another, and another, until six people were present, and the prayer meeting began. On the following Wednesday, October 7th, there were forty intercessors.
Thus, in the first week of October 1857, it was decided to hold a meeting daily instead of weekly. Within six months, ten thousand business men were gathering daily for prayer in New York, and within two years, a million converts were added to the American churches.
Undoubtedly the greatest revival in New York’s colorful history was sweeping the city, and it was of such an order to make the whole nation curious. There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, simply an incredible movement of the people to pray.”
– Some of you have already been meeting together to pray for Stonebridge Church,
– and for fellow workers to join us in bring the gospel to our own towns and cities and neighborhoods and workplaces and to the ends of the earth.
– Some of us have been praying about the possibility of bringing someone from CCO to help us bring the gospel to college students
-But if you’re like me, you haven’t been praying regularly enough for God’s help
– Jesus’s instructions to pray were given in Matthew to a greater number of disciples from whom he then chose the twelve to go on the first missionary trip
-In Luke Jesus’ instructions to pray were given to the 72
-In both cases, not just one or two gifted disciples were called to pray but all of them.
– In the coming days, hopefully by next week, we will schedule a regular time and place for the larger congregation to gather and pray for the Lord to send others to help us to bring the gospel to our own generation. Won’t you plan to join us?