Yesterday we finished our series at Southampton Student NAVS with our seventh session entitled “An Invitation to Pray – The Lord of the Harvest”.
Our series this term has essentially focused on what it means to ‘make our lives count’ through the lens of what it means to ‘follow Jesus’ and to ‘labour in God’s harvest-field’ which we defined as being those we live, work and study with. We thought about Jesus’ call to go and make disciples and finally about how our intrinsic worth should motivate our involvement in God’s purposes as we become the kind of people God can use.
Jesus says that prayer should be our first step towards in putting this far reaching vision for life into action. In Matthew 9:35-38 Jesus, when He saw the crowds was filled with compassion and then said; “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”. The reality is that the task is still overwhelming, the harvest is still plentiful and the workers are still few. Jesus’ heart for the lost leads Him to pray. My natural inclination is normally an activity-based desire to be the solution! Yet Jesus’ mission was born out of prayer and it is to the Father that He points us in order to meet the needs of the many. Part of being a labourer in God’s harvest is about praying for other labourers to train and join us in this task. As we think about such a prayer we turn our focus to John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer which comes at the end of Jesus’ Upper Room discourse and splits down into 3 distinct sections;
(1) PRAYING FOR THE GLORY OF GOD (17:1-5) – Throughout John’s gospel Jesus repeatedly says “My hour (or my time’) has not yet come (e.g. John 2:4, 7:8, 30, 8:20) but here Jesus says “Father, the hour has come” (v1). The focus of the ‘coming of the hour’ is on the glory of God and so we find Jesus praying;
“Glorify Your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (v1),
“I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (v4)
“Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (v5).
Glory is the outshining of God’s character and so we read elsewhere that;
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” (Hebrews 1:3a)
“…We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
This glory was evident before the world began (v5), veiled in the flesh of Jesus’ humanity (v4), revealed in Jesus’ saving work (v1) and it comes to Jesus through the disciples (v10). This first part of Jesus’ prayer is essentially focused on the Glory of God and the completion of the work the Father had given to Him. This work was about accomplishing Salvation for a needy world.
Using the model for ourselves, Jesus wants us to pray for His Glory in and through our lives and ministry. Paul writes that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). We bring glory to God as we grow in His Likeness and as we participate in the plans and purposes that He has for our lives. Are you praying for the things that God is doing in and through your life? Do you want God to be glorified through your life?
(2) PRAYING FOR THE DISCIPLES WELL-BEING (17:6-19) – Secondly Jesus is praying for those the Father had given Him;
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” (v6)
“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (v9).
Luke 6:12 tells us that Jesus prayed all night before choosing the twelve disciples; these were the men the Father gave to Jesus as labourers. Notice that Jesus prays specifically for His disciples, not for the world. These were the men through whom Jesus says that “glory has come to me through them” (v10). Jesus prays for the following;
(a) For their Protection (v11,12,15): The danger here is is Satan, ‘the evil one’ who works relentlessly to distract, disrupt and create disunity. Jesus says Protection depends on the Father. Jesus was about to leave them and so He asks the Father to protect them. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name” (v11) and “My prayer is…that you protect them from the evil one” (v15).
(b) For their Distinctiveness (v15-16,18): Jesus prays for those God had given Him they would be distinctive to the world, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (v15-16) and then “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (v18). Jesus is clear that we are in the world (and we should be) but we are not of the world.
(c) For their Sanctification (v17,19): Jesus work was about our sanctification, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (v19) and so He prays to that end “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (v17). This word sanctify means “to be set apart as pure,” and when we obey Him we are set apart and purified.
One of the ways that God answers this prayer to send out labourers is to give us men and women who we can help to follow Him and become labourers. So as we pray for labourers we also need to pray accordingly for their well-being. Pressures, challenges and reasons to give up abound, are you praying for the well-being of those God is giving you?
(3) PRAYING FOR THE FRUIT OF THEIR LABOURS (17:20-26) – Finally Jesus prayed too for their fruit; for those who would believe “through their message” (v20). He prays for unity across many generations of believers and He demonstrates His passion for the lost as He prays;
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (v25-26).
Jesus’ passion is that through the lives of people like us many more would come to know Him. As we see the crowds we should be convinced that we should be labourers and we should pray for others to join us. Has God laid on you, a heart for the next generation?
The things we pray for reveal our priorities! What do you prayers say about you and your concern for God’s harvest? God has led me to be involved in the lives of some great people over the years and it’s been a huge blessing and privilege. I would love for you to share the joy of raising up labourers. We’ve seen that involvement with people is the heartbeat of what God is calling us to do and the starting point is through prayer. Jesus’s pattern for such prayer is to focus on (1) the work God had is giving us to do, (2) the wellbeing of the labourers God is giving to us and (3) the subsequent fruit of their labours. Will you take up the challenge to pray for labourers? Mission starts with prayer so start praying today!
To listen to the full session I gave yesterday click here