When we pray for the lost, does it really do anything?
Isn’t God going to save whoever he’s planned to save anyway? Jesus tells us that God is waiting for us to pray in order for him to act:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)
What an incredible passage. First we see the heart of Jesus for the lost – when he sees the crowds he has compassion on them because of the misery of their lives without a good Shepherd. He doesn’t say, “Look at all those vile sinners. Good – they’re getting what they deserve.” He has compassion on them. He pities them because they’re harassed and helpless with no one to guide them or care for them or protect them. I want that kind of compassion for the lost.
Next Jesus tells his disciples to pray earnestly for laborers for the harvest. Why doesn’t he just raise up laborers himself? Because he wants to involve us. He wants us to have his heart of compassion for the lost. He wants us to pity people in their lost and helpless condition. And he gives us the privilege of participating in his mission to rescue them.
So he tells us to pray earnestly for God to send out laborers. In a sense, he restricts himself to our prayers. It’s as if Jesus says to us, “If you don’t pray it won’t happen.” If we aren’t concerned about the lost, and if we don’t pray earnestly for laborers, then there won’t be any, and multitudes will perish. Andrew Murray, says in his book With Christ in the School of Prayer:
“How little Christians really feel and mourn the need of labourers in the fields of the world so white to the harvest. And how little they believe that our labour-supply depends on prayer, that prayer will really provide as many as he needeth.” -Andrew Murray
How we need the Lord to give us his own compassion for the lost multitudes in the world and all around us. And how we need him to give us faith that our prayers really accomplish something. If Jesus told us to pray earnestly for laborers, it must matter. He wouldn’t have commanded it if it weren’t critical and if he didn’t use our very prayers to raise up those laborers.