As Jesus looked down from his own time to the end of the age, he pointed out a terrible problem. He told his disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37).
As I read these words, I wonder, “What’s the solution? How can more laborers be raised up to go the nations?” Jesus gave the answer, in the very next verse: Someone has to pray these laborers into the harvest. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).
You may think, “Doors are closing all over the world.” That may be true, but it doesn’t matter how closed some nations may look to our eyes. If God can tear down the Iron Curtain in Europe and the Bamboo Curtain in Asia, nothing can stop him from working wherever he will.
In the 1980’s, when our ministry was headquartered in Texas, I spent a year praying that God would send someone to New York City to raise up a church in Times Square. I pledged to help whomever God chose: to raise money, to hold meetings, to build up support. Yet, while I was praying for God to send a laborer into this specific harvest, the Lord put the burden on me.
The apostle Paul was sent forth as a missionary through the power of prayer. It happened in Antioch, where leaders of the church were praying over the harvest (see Acts 13:2-6). Paul’s first missionary journey came out of a prayer meeting. It was the direct result of godly men obeying Jesus’ words, to pray for God to send laborers into the harvest.
The same is true today. We are to be about the work of praying for the harvest, just as those godly men in Antioch did. The fact is, while we’re praying, the Holy Spirit is searching the earth, putting an urgency in the hearts of those who desire to be used of the Lord. He’s touching people everywhere, setting them apart for his service.
In Matthew 8, a centurian came to Jesus seeking healing for his dying servant. Christ answered the centurion, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (8:13). I believe the same thing happens with all who intercede for the harvest. While we’re asking God to send forth laborers, the Holy Spirit is stirring someone somewhere and it doesn’t matter where it takes place. The powerful truth is, our prayers are being used to send laborers into the harvest.