Have you ever had someone say to you, “You are an answer to prayer?” Have you heard those words when you did something helpful with a task or listened when someone had a problem?
I have said the words, “you are an answer to prayer” when someone, unexpectedly, has given me support or encouragement at just the right time.
The Harvest is Plentiful
This week, while reading the few last verses of Matthew 9, I was reminded of a special event in my life. The scripture reads as follows:
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
The event took place when I fourteen. I had told my Sunday school teacher and my pastor that I thought God wanted me to be a minister. I think the words I used were, “I think God wants me to be a preacher.”
On the Sunday after I had made my “big” announcement, my pastor stood and told the congregation that God was calling me into ministry. But he said it this way, “God has answered our prayers and has raised up another worker for his harvest, Timmy Bias.”
Send More Laborers
Since that time, this scripture has been special to me. In fact, in response to what my pastor said, I started praying, “Jesus, send more laborers into your harvest.”
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. I can see it in my imagination. A flock of sheep milling around in a pen. Frightened and confused, stumbling blindly, bumping helplessly into one another, because they don’t know which way to turn.
Can you think of a better description of the day in which we are living? In the midst of this pandemic, we are wandering aimlessly, looking for a leader we can trust.
When Jesus saw the people, he was moved deeply. Out of his compassion he asked his followers to pray, “…ask the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”
Jesus, I pray that you send more laborers into the harvest.
What is your motivation?
The motivation is compassion, and most specifically the compassion you and I have experienced and received in and through Jesus. As much as we need to know and understanding some business principles, we are not a business enterprise. Our motivation is not an impressive bottom line. Our goal is not to enhance institutional pride. Our aim is not to be the biggest and the best.
Our motivation is compassion. There are people outside the walls of your church, people in the community in which your church building is located, who are lonely, confused, hungry, angry, hurting, dying. There are families who are disintegrating, young minds being destroyed by drugs, older people feeling forgotten. The need is almost overwhelming. Truly the harvest is plentiful.
In our scripture, Jesus sees the need and has compassion upon the people. He turns to his followers and says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest.”
Your Next Step
Take just a moment to name someone in your mind right now. Someone you know who is lonely or homebound or in need of care or a listening ear? It could be someone young or someone trying to find his/her way? It might be someone who is struggling with substance abuser or is a victim of a broken family? Who do you know who is down and out or even up and out? Someone who needs compassion and care. Get that person’s face in your mind and their name on your lips.
Jesus, I pray that you send more laborers into the harvest.
Catherine Marshall, in her book A Closer Walk, tells the story of Mary and Harold. They had moved to Chicago and were alone. Even though they had each other, they had no other friends. They were so lonely; they became irritable and unhappy with each other.
One thing they still did together was to read the bible. One night they read the words of Jesus from John’s gospel, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). Somehow the light of that passage penetrated their darkness. They realized that much of their unhappiness was caused by their self-centeredness. They asked themselves, “has Jesus chosen us for some kind of service? And what would it be in a city as big as Chicago?”
The first person they encountered after this discovery was the waitress who served them in a nearby restaurant. She appeared to be frustrated and Mary asked her if she were okay. The waitress said she had just moved to the city and was miserable. Mary and Herold said they would meet her after her shift, and they would be her friends.
A neighbor who was a widower became the second person they befriended. Soon a dozen people were meeting once a week for conversation and prayer. Out of those meetings grew a project called “Adventures in Friendship.” In less than a year, they had people gathering for prayer and conversation and involved in visiting the lonely and homebound in their apartment buildings and neighborhoods.
Mary and Harold became so absorbed in the needs of others that they soon forgot their own troubles. My guess is that they never thought of what they were doing as an answer to prayer. In the name of Jesus, they were simply showing compassion to people in need.
Be An Answer to Prayer this Week
Now, do you have a person in mind? Name on your lips? Someone who needs compassion and care?
Jesus had compassion on the crowd, He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”
Okay. Jesus, I pray that you send more labors into the harvest.
Will you be an answer to my prayer this week?