The other “Lord’s prayer”
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38, NIV)
Jesus was at full stretch, travelling throughout Galilee, preaching the gospel and healing as only He could. Crowds came to him. They were like sheep without a shepherd - they so needed His help. But despite His divinity, the incarnate Son of God could only be in one place at a time. More workers were needed.
Changing the metaphor from sheep to harvest, he says “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” The picture is of a field ripe for the scythe, but in danger of going to waste for lack of labourers.
This is a striking analysis. If we ask why, today, there aren’t more Christians in the UK, we might suggest other reasons:
Christianity has been found to be untrue
Christianity is irrelevant
We are too affluent to have any sense of need
But Christianity has not been found to be either untrue or irrelevant. And while affluence is certainly a challenge, there are both poorer and richer countries where Christianity is numerically stronger than it is in the UK.
No. Jesus’ analysis is the shortage of workers. In my own case, it was only when someone explained Christianity to me properly that I became a Christian. What I’d thought was Christianity - and rejected - turned out to be a caricature. How many people are in the same position! They just need someone to explain Jesus’ teaching accurately, and then teach them, building them up in Christ.
So it is that Jesus, His heart full of compassion, urges us to pray for God to send out workers to the harvest fields.
At St Andrew the Great we have a great opportunity to be involved in the answer to this prayer. With so many passing through Cambridge and joining the church for just a few years, we pray that we can be used by God to help in the supply of workers. That doesn’t just mean vicars and the like, but just useful Christians, able to serve in local churches all over the world, helping others to know Jesus.
This month we are launching a five-year appeal for the Jesus Lane Trust, which supports our work among students. For many years now, the generous contributions of alumni and others have kept things going. Every few years we have another appeal - looking to the Lord and to you for the future of this work. Might you have a think about this? Thank you!
Meanwhile, I am due to be taking a three-month sabbatical, so there will be rather less from this blog till May. But please join me in praying this great prayer for our work here.
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