When we examine the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we see that there are twenty four times mentioned that He prayed. There were various locations given from the wilderness (Luke 5:16 ) to mountains (Matthew 14:23), and that there were different times of the day spoken as being moments of prayer. He prayed in the morning (Mark 1:35-36) and in fact He prayed all night before choosing His disciples (Luke 6:12-13). The Gospel writers also share with us that when He prayed it might be alone (Mark 1:35) or it could with others (Matthew 26:36-46).
You would assume that these moments when He prayed with others would be the time when He, if He did, would ask them to join Him in specific requests during their time of prayer. When are these times He is with others in prayer? One of the ones that is most well know is when He is with His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane and He asks them to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:38). He speaks to the disciples of the emotional weight upon His soul and possibly requests their prayer support yet it is not specifically recorded that there is a spoken request though it might be insinuated (Matthew 26: 38). A second time is when He is with His disciples in the last week of His earthly life as they travel from the “last supper” (John 13:1-4) to the garden of Gethsemane (John 15:31; 18: 1). This is His longest recorded prayer. In the six hundred plus words of John 17, we read of His spoken petition to the Spirit that His disciples would be one with Him as He is with the Father (Vs. 11). We also read of the His praying for the disciples followers to have that same relationship with each other (Vs. 20-21)! Yet we do not see that He asks anyone else to join in and ask together of the Spirit for these requests. These are the personal requests that were unspoken to others yet are His requests of the Spirit! So the moments when He is praying with others nearby do not yield any prayer requests.
The only prayer request of Jesus that we can locate is found in Matthew ‘s gospel. It is located following Matthew’s calling of discipleship by the Lord (9:9) and the Lord’s statement of the purpose of His coming (9:10-13). Also it follows a list of people who need the ministry of the Lord and the description of how they received their miracle:
• A father who needs the resurrection of a dead daughter
• A woman with an issue of blood (9:20-22)
• Two blind men (9:27-31)
• and a man who is mute but does not need a healing but a
demonic expulsion (9:32-34).
Matthew describes His emotional state of being before the giving the request and how the request formed within His mind!
His prayer request is sandwiched between His giving of authority to His twelve disciples over all unclean spirits, diseases, and weaknesses that brings suffering whether mental, emotional or physical (10:1). He does not stop with the giving of the ability to be used to help humanity but gives them the command and direction of where to go to use this authority. The instruction also included the proper use of power and that it is was given to them not for personal gain but for bring joy to others. They will face rejection but they are not to focus on the rejection. They are to shake it off, that is, get it out of their minds! They must focus on the acceptance by individuals (10:5-15).
What was the request He shared with His disciples? Here is what Matthew 9 states:
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages,
teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the
gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep
without a shepherd.
37 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.”(ESV)
The request flows from His lips because of what He sees! He sees hurting helpless people! People who are sheep without a shepherd (9:36). They lack human Godly leaders that would lead them to the God who is their only solution for their problems!
What humans view will affect their emotions! His emotions were effected the same way ours are effected since He is God/man! Compassion is the “feeling of affection and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”.
This leads to Him thinking about a solution! The solution is not that as the “Son of God” He does not have the power to meet their needs! That has already been demonstrated to Matthews reader by the list of needs He has already met in 9:18-34! But since He is also the “son of man” He is limited by bodily presence to be able to minister to the crowd! The solution is for more people to be concerned and be willing to take action to interact with these people! The harvest is plenteous! It is not a lack of opportunity but as usual we fail to act!
How can this solution of more people being in the harvest be brought about? He does not tell His disciples to go immediately into the harvest and reap. He said: We must ask the “Lord of the Harvest” to send people who are labors into the harvest! This is His prayer request!
Prayer requests most often have three parts:
1. The problem and possibly a description of the problem
2. The solution and possibly a description of the solution!
3. The naming of the one who is looked to for the answer,
that is the Lord!
Let’s examine the prayer request:
What is the problem that Jesus addresses?
• There is a harvest and it is plentiful.
• More people are needed to help reap the harvest before
it is lost.
What is the solution?
• You pray or in the NT “to make one’s need known, to
• Your pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send more
Who has the solution to the need or the request?
• The Lord of the Harvest.
• Who is this?
The Lord (owner or master) of the harvest (individuals who have needs of healing or deliverance). He is to send labors into His harvest. He calls and empowers individuals to go into His harvest. They are labors, that is they are not inactive but active as part of the solution for the hurting exerting their energy in the process. It is His harvest! He is the owner of all the souls of men (Ez. 18:4)
The request leads to numerous questions:
• Why does He ask His disciples to pray for this?
• Could He not pray Himself ?
• Would not one prayer of His achieve more than a thousand
• Is God [The Father or Spirit (John 4:24)], the Lord of the
harvest, not aware of the need?
• And would He not, in His own good time, send laborers without
the disciples’ prayers?
These questions help us to understand for Jesus to ask for prayer from disciples for labors gives us the knowledge that prayer has importance and power in the Kingdom of God’s work! It can multiply the number of people who are recruited to work in the harvest! Gathering the harvest depends upon prayer! It is the action that the disciples must give themselves so that the harvest will not be lost!
Yet it is not just action that is needed but labor that is directed by the Spirit! What and where are the hearts that are ready to be harvested? God see’s the hearts and knows who is ready (1 Sam 16:7). Praying disciples are able to directed by the Spirit because the speak with the Spirit! They can quickly be directed before the moment is lost in the life of the hurting individual!
It is important to realize that in the original writing of Matthew there was not a chapter break after verse thirty eight. Because we see the chapter mark we tend to close our thinking to the subject of Jesus and His prayer request and start other subjects of the calling of the disciples (10:1), their empowerment (10:1) , their sending (10:5) and His instruction when going (10:5-42). We must to realize that the beginning of chapter ten is connected to the verse thirty eight. Those that pray, His disciples, will turn out to be the reapers who are empowered and sent out in Matthew 10.
Not only must be reapers be directed by the Spirit but they must be empowered to have the ability to reap! They will be meeting forces that do not want to let go of their subjects! Unclean spirits, diseases and physical weaknesses are powerful forces for the natural man to wrestle with but when empowered by the Spirit they become defeated foes!
When you pray for labors for the harvest get ready for God to speak to you to become the one who joins in His harvest! A life of payer is the prerequisite to become a reaper. Thus the prayer request of Jesus is for His disciples to become active participates in His ministry and help Him reap a harvest!