The word “Pray” occurs 68 times in 66 verses of the New Testament. Of these 68 usages, Christians are called to pray for three particular things, three specific focuses of the Lord. We Christians are all called to:
Pray for Labourers.
Pray for One Another.
Pray for our Persecutors.
Pray for Labourers:
Jesus has been out teaching and preaching in all the cities and villages of Galilee and healing every sickness and disease of the people brought to Him. Then in Matthew 9:36 Jesus was deeply touched by what He experienced, as “… seeing the crowds, He was moved with compassion on them, because they were tired and scattered like sheep having no shepherd.” Then Jesus turns from the image and theme of the shepherdless sheep to the image of the harvest ripe fields of wheat, white under the sun and ready for the reapers.
“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”“ Mat 9:37-38 & Luke 10:2 (NKJV)
The last words in v38 “that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (KJV) come from the Greek “hopōs ekbalēi ergatas.” The verb here, ekballō, can, and perhaps should be interpreted much more emphatically as meaning to drive out, to push out, to draw out with violence or without. This is very meaningful, for it confirms and establishes the intensity with which Jesus viewed praying for the harvest of souls, but more precisely, praying for more harvesters. Prayer is the means, prayer is the remedy. Prayer is what we are asked to do.
Sometimes God has literally to push or force us Christians into ministry, even as we deny and resist our known God given duties. Jesus tells us clearly that although we are in the world, we are not of this world, yet so many Christians live lives as if that were not the case.
How seldom these days do we pray for more preachers? How seldom do we pray for more missionaries? The missionaries whom our forefathers went out were the best of the best, not the also rans of the congregations. The harvesters of old went out into the field for years on end, not for quick 4 day experiential visits. The small Moravian Community of Herrnhut in Saxony, in 1727, commenced a round-the-clock “prayer watch” which continued unbroken for over one hundred years, with one fulltime prayer warrior per each single missionary they sent out into the field. And they sent out over 300.
That is the genuine Christian spirit and evangelical mindset which Jesus was talking about in Matthew 9, because “He was moved with compassion on them.”
Pray for One Another:
All Christians know about praying for one another, yet at best we pay this command casual lip service, at worst, we ignore it totally and completely.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16
In Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Clarke says about this verse, “There is no instance in auricular [spoken] confession where the penitent and the priest pray together for pardon; but here the people are commanded to pray for each other that they may be healed.” In other words, Christians must pray for each other in order to be healed. Why? Because there is great power in the prayer of a righteous person.
For many reasons, this one included, Christians are not called to be “lone rangers,” but are called to be an integral part of a living and vibrant praying community. However, not only do we need to pray for one another, we need to confess our sins to one another. This requires to have a degree of trust in the community. It also means a high degree of accountability to one another within the community.
Clarke continues on the prayers of a righteous man saying “The [Greek] words δεησις ενεργουμενη signify energetic supplication, or such a prayer as is suggested to the soul and wrought in it by a Divine energy. When God designs to do some particular work in his Church he pours out on his followers the spirit of grace and supplication; and this he does sometimes when he is about to do some especial work for an individual. When such a power of prayer is granted, faith should be immediately called into exercise, that the blessing may be given: the spirit of prayer is the proof that the power of God is present to heal. Long prayers give no particular evidence of Divine inspiration: the following was a maxim among the ancient Jews, שתפלת צדיקים קצדה the prayers of the righteous are short.”
Yes, the prayers of the righteous are short……
Pray for our Persecutors:
Jesus made it very clear that we are to pray for those who persecute and abuse us as the following two examples demonstrate:
Matthew 5:44-45 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven….. “
Luke 6:28 “… bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
Even the disciples balked at some of the words which Jesus spoke as they were simply contrary to normal worldly thinking and these are hard words for flesh and blood to deal with. However, for Christians who are thoroughly grounding in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ’s love for us, this particular command is made a whole lot easier. Each Christians who comes before Jesus for washing and cleansing in His blood knows the greatness of the love and mercy which is within Him. The have the ability to speak out in full honest, true and sincere belief asking of Him “Lord, what will you have me do?” Remember that for Christians, the Lord modelled this for us in the prayer He gave his disciples saying in Matthew 6:12 “Forgive our sins, just as we have forgiven those who did wrong to us.”
As John Gill says of praying for our enemies: “What Christ here commands and advises to, he himself did; for as he hung upon the cross, he prayed for his crucifiers, who were then using him in the most despiteful, as well as cruel manner; saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”: and in this he has left us an example, that we should tread in his steps; and here in he was quickly followed by his holy martyr Stephen; who, whilst he was being stoned, prayed for his persecutors and murderers, saying, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. This breathes out the true spirit of Christianity, and is peculiar to it. The whole of this is directly opposite to the tenets of the Jews, particularly the Scribes and Pharisees; who allowed of revenge, and keeping anger against any person that had done them an injury, as has been observed: and which were also the sentiments of the Karaites, or Scripturarians, another sect among them who kept to the letter of the Scriptures, and rejected the traditions of the elders, which the Pharisees held: but in this they agreed with them.”
Doing the bidding of the Lord Jesus Christ is often contrary to our natural fallen earthly ways and fleshy wishes. However, the commands of the Lord Jesus are precisely how we are to live our lives as Christians. There is a lot to learn, yet often knowledge of the background reasons, make it so much easier for us comply and simply, just do it.