Many Members, One Body

Being an athlete and coach for a good portion of my life in the tennis arena has given me a deep appreciation for the team concept in sports.

And so the understanding of team, as communicated in God’s Word, has easily been integrated into my Christian life. For my 30+ years as a believer, my participation in the Great Commission as a missionary and also in church ministry has been all about the team, God’s team – the Church!

Finding my role on the team has been a challenge from time to time. Yet the comfort I have in knowing that I am not alone runs deep. For the Great Commission is not about “me”, it’s about “we.” 

Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18).  He also stated, “Go, make disciples of all nations. And lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18, 20).

We, as the Church, are God’s vessel of reconciliation on planet earth. For as one wise sage quipped, “The Church is the means through which God accomplishes His redemptive plan on earth. There is no plan B!”

Many members, one body! The Church is a beautiful thing!

As we close this series on prayer, this submission focuses on the power of prayer on a macro-level. What I mean by macro-level is praying for others in the evangelistic endeavor, both witnesses of the truth and those who will receive their witness!

The Two-Thousand-Year-Old Prayer

I would venture a guess that as believers in Jesus we have all prayed the “Lord’s Prayer” on occasion, some of us on many an occasion. Yet I wonder if you realize there is another prayer Jesus commended His followers to pray, one that has had great impact upon your life and continues to impact the life of the Church to this very day.

In fact, this prayer intersects with the Great Commission and is relevant to our witness as God’s people. Note the Lord’s specific prayer exhortation in Matthew 9:38: 

“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

I think it fascinating that you and I are actually an answer to this prayer, for we are part of the ‘harvest’, a reference to the great spiritual harvest of souls for salvation. As those first disciples of Jesus walked by faith, how could they know the ultimate impact of this prayer. Yet, 2000 years later, saints throughout the history of the church have prayed this prayer, and God is faithful!

Interestingly, we are not only part of the harvest, we are also the laborers. For those who become part of the harvest become laborers in God’s field!

As we think about this prayer in light of our own lives, know your own evangelistic efforts are an answer to this prayer. As we pray for those to whom we’re witnessing, as we demonstrate God’s love in tangible ways, and as we proclaim the gospel message to them, we’re fulfilling our role as laborers. And as we pray for the witness of others, for churches, missionaries and missions, we are also participating in the harvest! Yes, we are the subjects of and the participants in a 2000-year-old prayer – to God be the glory! 

But there’s more! We are also called to…

Pray for all Men

We, the Church, are called to do the work of evangelism, both collectively and individually. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son” (John 3:16). Additionally, God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The Apostle Paul illustrates well for us a heart that beats for lost humanity. Note the context of his exhortation to Timothy, a context not so different from ours today, political and religious upheaval:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Paul, writing from a Roman prison, was writing to Timothy, who at the time was pastoring the church in Ephesus. The Ephesian church had evidently stopped praying for the lost, so Paul was urging Timothy to again make it a priority.

In verse 1 the “therefore” is there for this reason: false teachers had perverted the gospel (1Timothy 1:18-20), which in turn had negatively affected the evangelistic prayers of those in the church. 

So Paul urged that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Here Paul included political leaders, because in his day, just as in our day, they can be hostile to God and therefore a target of our bitterness and resentment. Instead, we’re called to pray for, bless, and do good to them (see also Matthew 5:43-44).

And why pray for all men? So that our testimony will be effective and pleasing to the Lord:  

“that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:2-3).

Although persecution was certainly possible in Paul’s day and exists in our day, it should typically come as a result of holy living, not civil disobedience. For just like first century believers, today we also called to be salt and light in the midst of a perverse and corrupt generation (Matthew 5:13-16Philippians 2:14-15).

The evangelistic nature of praying for all men comes into light in 1 Timothy 2:4, where Paul noted the heart of our Savior God:

“who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

God’s desire should be our desire, His heart our heart. And yet, how difficult is it for us to regularly pray for the salvation of those in our personal sphere of influence, much less for others. For the present enemies of entertainment, busyness and other issues of everyday life can crowd out evangelistic prayer. Lord, help us to pray.

In the course of my journey with Jesus, I had a good friend from college (I’ll call “Chris”) who I’d lost contact with after graduation. Upon coming to faith about a year out of college in 1987, I would occasionally remembered him in prayer, for he wasn’t a believer. A few years ago, we reconnected on facebook, with Chris calling me on the phone one day, sharing he’d become a Christian ten years earlier! I was thrilled!

I have other lost people in my life I’ve been praying for many years, even some I’ve lost contact with. Yet, I continue to pray in faith. I would encourage you to keep praying for those in your sphere of influence, our leaders, and all men. And if you’d like, email us the names of people we can join you in praying for, as we regularly pray for the salvation of the lost. So, pray in faith and persevere in prayer, knowing that in some cases, only heaven will reveal the ultimate fruit of our prayerful labors.

Lord Jesus, give us not only hearts that break for the lost – gives us hearts that pray for the lost…even all men! Amen.

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