“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 every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 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.”
I read this whole passage, Matthew 9:35-38, because more than just about any other place in the Bible, this informs how we pray for people who have never heard the gospel. The whole picture here is Jesus seeing crowds of people who are like sheep without a shepherd. Picture, when we talk about unreached people, talk about people who have never heard the gospel, they are the epitome of sheep without a shepherd, without the good shepherd. They have no knowledge of Jesus. It’s not just like people around me in Metro Washington, DC, who have knowledge about Jesus, most, most people. There’s isolated instances where this may not be the case, but most people have knowledge of Jesus, awareness of Jesus. And yes, we long for them to come to know Jesus. But when we talk about the unreached, we’re talking about people who don’t even have knowledge about Jesus as the good shepherd, as the one who died on a cross.
May we constantly be on our knees calling out to the Lord of the harvest to raise up laborers for the advancement of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
I’m thinking about people I’ve met in remote regions where they’ve literally never even heard his name. “What do you know about Jesus?” “I don’t know anything. Is that somebody that a nearby village? I have no idea who that is.” Sheep without a shepherd. And Jesus says he has compassion for them. He loves them. He desires their salvation. Even the language of a harvest is a picture. We’ve seen this ever since the beginning of Matthew, Matthew chapter three. Harvest is a picture of coming judgment. We see this all throughout the gospels that there’s coming a day when the wheat will be separated from the tears, where people will be divided into two groups; those who have trusted in Jesus and those who have not. And unreached people can’t put their trust in Jesus if they’ve never heard of Jesus. So harvest is plentiful.
All of these people, when think about unreached, we think about billions of people, two to three, some say more than 3 billion people in the world who have little to no knowledge of Jesus, no access to the gospel. The harvest is plentiful. There’s so many of them. The problem is, Jesus says, “The laborers are few.” There are so few people working to get the gospel to them. Everybody else is assuming somebody else is doing it. So relatively few people. “So pray,” Jesus says, this is what you do. This is why as part of why we pray the word on this podcast, why we do this is because Jesus has told us “When you pray, things will happen. Pray, earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Why does he tell us this? Because in his sovereignty, his design, the prayers of his people, for laborers, to bring about harvest work. To bring about the spread of the gospel to those who’ve never heard it.
Jesus, right now we want to do together. What you have told us to do. We want to pray, earnestly. We come before you earnestly, zealously. We pray your compassion in us. God, we pray. We pray. Please send out more laborers to work in harvest fields where the gospel has not yet gone, among sheep, who don’t have a shepherd who have no knowledge of Jesus as shepherd. God, we pray that you would send out laborers to billions of people in the world so now multitudes of laborers and multitudes, from our churches, from people who have the gospel, to take the gospel where it’s not gone. We pray today, specifically for the Maguindanao people in the Philippines. We praise you for so many parts of the Philippines that haven’t been reached with the gospel, but for these Muslim areas, like 1.3 million Maguindanao people who are strongly Muslim.
Many of them never having heard the good news of your love for them in Jesus. God we pray that your send out laborers from the Filipino church, send out neighbors from the American church and everywhere in between, send out laborers to the Maguindanao people and to 7,000 other people groups like them. We pray earnestly for this, trusting that right now, like right now you are hearing our prayers and right now you’re raising up labors. God, maybe even among those who are listening right now and praying right now that labors might be raised up and individuals and singles and families and couples and senior adults might be raised up to say, “This is how God’s calling me to spend my life, to get the gospel of this people group or that people group.” God, we pray, earnestly, to you the Lord of the harvest, send out laborers into your harvest field. That they might know your love. They might know you as the shepherd who saves their souls forever. God, we pray for this in Jesus name. Amen.