“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” (Matthew 9:35-38)
Once a month I attend a prayer meeting to pray for Muslims in my city of Hamilton, Ontario. There are about 30,000 Muslims in my city. Close to me, in Toronto and Dearborn, Michigan are many more Muslims. As we pray I am struck by the faithfulness of one woman who hosts our meeting. She is a committed prayer woman. Not only does she host this prayer meeting, but once a month she also drives around the city praying for different districts and neighborhoods.
All this causes me to reflect on the importance of prayer for Salaam Project and other CRC mission efforts. In this passage from Matthew, it is clear that our mission is based on two things.
First, we are actively involved in mission because of Jesus’ compassion for the people. They were harassed and helpless in Jesus’ time and they still are today. Our mission meets people in their place of need. It is a response to the suffering that comes from living in a fallen world. We suffer together, and Jesus meets us in our suffering and heals us. Many Muslims today are feeling unsatisfied with the legalism of Islam. They long to have a deeper relationship with God. They suffer as we suffer and they are searching for healing.
Second, our mission efforts must be based on prayer. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers – literally, ask God to “thrust out” workers. Before anything else, Jesus calls us to prayer – to pray for workers – a humble term – and to pray that God would “thrust them out” into fields ripe for harvest. I don’t know about you, but my tendency is to want to get going – to pray first seems like a frustrating extra step that keeps me from accomplishing my goals.
But clearly Jesus wants me to take that time to pray, before anything else.
We need prayer today because many people are hesitant to engage with Muslims, let alone commit their lives to missionary service to them. Many wonder why we are spending precious church resources on a people group who they fear want to dominate the world and impose Sharia law on the rest of the populace.
Yet, Muslims are just as harassed and helpless as the people of Jesus’ day. They are in need of a shepherd, a good and loving shepherd who will heal their diseases. Jesus’ compassion motivates us to reach out to all who do not yet know Jesus, including Muslims. Jesus directive is for us to prepare the fields for harvest with prayer. Prayer is our task, to pray for workers for the harvest and to pray for a bountiful harvest.
As we continue the work of Salaam Project, our prayer is that prejudices and misconceptions, even hatred, would fall away – so that we could become effective workers in the fields for Jesus, the Lord of the harvest. The Muslim world is such a field. Where are the workers? Or maybe the more important question is, “where are the pray-ers?”