by Larry Glover-Wetherington
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 10:1-2).
The Greek word for “pray” here means to ask, beseech, plead, implore, make request, pray with a sense of urgency. It is in the middle voice, which indicates that we are to be in a continual back and forth conversation with God about God’s mission. When we read in the Gospels everything Jesus said about prayer, and when we see what the gospel writers said about how Jesus practiced prayer, we can only conclude that Christ intended for the work of the church to be done by prayer. The disciples made the connection between Jesus’ prayer and the wondrous things he said and did. Let’s note just some of those observations.
THE ROLE OF PRAYER IN JESUS’ MINISTRY
Early in Jesus’ ministry Luke says, But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Luke 5:15-16).
On yet another occasion, the disciples noticed Jesus in prayer: He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples (Luke 11:1).
Jesus explained the central purpose to his prayer life. He said, I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does (John 5:19-20a).
How did Jesus see what the Father was doing? He saw it through prayer. That’s how He did his work in ministry; that’s how he intends for the church to do its work. It is only through prayer that we can discern what God is doing, and how God is inviting us to join in what God is doing.
THE ROLE OF PRAYER IN THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH
We also need to note how the early church went about its ministry through prayer. Our record of the church for its first 70 or so years is the book of Acts. The opening scene is Jesus giving the disciples final instructions before he ascended to heaven. He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, and he said to them, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
As they began to experience persecution, Peter and John were put in jail overnight and ordered never again to preach in the name of Jesus. After their release, they reported everything to the church. Luke says, So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. (Acts 4:24). They began by hallowing God’s name. Then they proceeded to tell God what the religious authorities had said, and they closed their prayer with this request, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:29-31).
We find Peter later going up on a rooftop to pray, and he receives a vision and ultimately a command to go to Cornelius’ house. He goes, and the Holy Spirit falls upon the Gentiles, just like the Day of Pentecost That event caused a big controversy, and Peter goes to Jerusalem to explain. I can almost hear him, saying, “I was just minding my own business and praying, but let me tell you what happened.”
Space does not allow me to recount all the other instances of the church in prayer in the book of Acts, not the least of which was the launching of Paul’s missionary journeys. Just like Jesus, the early church came to understand what they were to do and say as they heard it and recognized it from God. Luke does not conclude the book of Acts. There is the assumption that God’s mission would continue, and that the church would continue to do its work through prayer. Perhaps during this time of being restricted by the pandemic, the church can engage the ministry of prayer. After all, God is not quarantined.
These thoughts above are from Rev. Larry Glover-Wetherington, one of our associate partners in ministry based out of Durham, North Carolina. He has served in various churches positions across the Southeast. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at [email protected].