Jesus had been busy. Going into towns and villages, He preached in synagogues, and He healed people who were sick. As He looked at the crowds, He saw great needs. Jesus was moved with compassion because everywhere He looked He saw people suffering under great burdens. They were helpless, “like sheep without a shepherd.”
Because of the great need, and because of His great compassion, Jesus did two things in response.
First, Jesus instructed His followers to pray about the needs. He even gave a specific prayer request: “…pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) This could be the most neglected prayer in Scripture! Today, our churches will do well to take this to heart, as Jesus intended. Could there be more laborers in the harvest if we took this specific prayer request of our Lord more seriously? We know of a small church that made this a serious and frequent prayer. In answer to their prayer, the Lord sent six couples into missions from their group of about 60 people. There were others associated with this group went as well. Their sphere of impact through prayer grew beyond those they sent to many other workers around the world so that eventually, through prayer, this one small church impacted nearly every continent. The ministries begun in embryonic form through this prayer, continue to have world-wide impact.
Secondly, Jesus took another step: “These twelve Jesus sent out…” (Matthew 10:5). With His own power as their resource, Jesus told them to go into the harvest fields. This context had them going to the “lost sheep of Israel.” But the model of praying and sending is repeated by the early church (Acts 13:1-3). Certainly, the Holy Spirit will lead our churches in this way if we prioritize the prayer request given by Jesus.
Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2 NKJV)