And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. ESV
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. NIV
I've heard it said that when God wants to do something through His people, He always sets them praying. We can see this pattern throughout history (i.e., many of the great revivals began with prayer), and we see it in Jesus’ teaching as well. In Luke 10, Jesus commissioned seventy-two people to go and proclaim the good news of the kingdom. Think of it as the OG of mission trips. Before they leave, Jesus tells them in verse 2, “The harvest is plentiful.” In other words, God’s desire is that many would believe. In a sense, Jesus promises that their ministry will be fruitful — He is letting them know that many people will become followers of Jesus. Their hard work will not be in vain.
Just imagine Jesus’ followers standing around, encouraged by the promise that would be effective in their mission. And now here comes the part they have all been waiting for — the moment when Jesus would give them the secret to their success. He’s already told them the harvest is plentiful. You can imagine the disciples standing around waiting with anticipation as Jesus prepares to tell them his proclamation strategy. Look at what he says.
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest” (Luke 10:2).
Jesus’ Proclamation Strategy
Earnest prayer. That’s Jesus’ proclamation strategy. Jesus looks at the seventy-two standing around him, knowing that the harvest is plentiful, and he tells them to pray. Think of all the things He could have shared. He could have taught them to preach. He could have taught them to do miracles more effectively (that certainly became a part of their proclamation experience). He could have taught them more compelling ways to explain the good news.
But notice that wasn’t the first thing he said. The first thing Jesus tells his disciples is to pray earnestly. In other words, the first step in gospel proclamation is not our strategy or sermons. The primary strategy for effective gospel proclamation is the prayer of God’s people in the secret place.
Public Power / Private Prayer
It’s worth noticing that only one chapter later, the disciples come to Jesus and say to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
The disciples watched Jesus’ life, they saw His ministry and realized that prayer was the key. It was the private prayer life of Jesus that empowered his public ministry, and the disciples knew it. So, they asked him, “Teach us to pray.”
And this simple prayer, “Lord, send laborers into the harvest,” is one that God has been delighted to answer over the years. For me personally, this concept is more than a cute “bible-thought.” It’s actually very personal because the prayer “Lord, send labors” led to both joyful moments and sad moments in my life.
I remember praying that God would send my wife Rachel and me into the harvest. We prayed that He would send us exactly where He wanted. I remember being so excited when God called us to a small town in Ames IA, to work with Iowa State students. But I also remember the tears we shed when we said goodbye to our closest friends.
Since coming to Ames, we’ve had the joy of meeting so many people who have also said “yes” to God’s call in their life. But we’ve also said “goodbye” to many of those same people. Just this past Wednesday, Rachel and I said goodbye to some of our friends, Luke and Emma. Both Luke and Emma have said “yes” to God’s call in their lives and chosen to move overseas to share the gospel with people who have never heard the name of Jesus.
Understand, the Luke 10:2 prayer is risky, exhilarating, and joy-giving. When you pray this prayer, you will be amazed as God moves people from spiritual death to spiritual life. You will rejoice when He brings new friends into your life — people who can join you in gospel proclamation. But you will also experience sad moments. You will have moments when you say “goodbye” to people you love because they have been called to proclaim the gospel in a new place. This is the proclamation strategy that Jesus invites us into. Prayer is Jesus’ proclamation strategy.
So this week, here is one simple way to walk in obedience to Jesus. Set an alarm on your phone or watch to 10:02 (you can decide if you prefer AM or PM), and every time it goes off, look at your wrist, and pray the simple prayer, “Lord, send laborers.” Give it a try this week and watch as He answers that prayer in powerful ways.
Written By: Nick Harsh
Nick Harsh (MDiv, Clarks Summit University) is a ministry leader with The Salt Company, a ministry of Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. While publishing regularly at nickharsh.com, his writing has also been featured at The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Relevant Magazine.