Starting the year with the “other” Lord’s prayer 

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What are your prayers for 2020?

At the start of a new year many people make new commitments, perhaps to get fitter or to pick up a new hobby. We can do the same with our spiritual lives. This past week, many people will have recommitted to a daily quiet time or started a prayer journal.

As I have reflected on what my prayers for 2020 ought to be, I thought I should start with the prayers Jesus taught us. Like most churchgoers I say one of them often, what we know as “the Lord’s Prayer.” However, also like most churchgoers, I rarely say the “other” Lord’s prayer. 

It is the only other time in the Gospels where Jesus tells us what we ought to pray. It comes in Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus sees a crowd of people and responds to their needs. As I’ve started to pray it myself, I’ve found three priorities for prayer in the new year.

Pray for compassion that leads to action

Jesus always sees beneath the surface to observe what is really happening in a situation. So when he looks out at a group of people, he doesn’t just notice the size of the crowd. He sees people who are spiritually lost.

Matthew tells us that, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). We live in a world where countless voices call for our attention, and many are led astray. They need to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and to follow him.

It is Jesus’ compassion for lost people that leads him to action that they might be saved. As we pray Jesus’ prayer, we find ourselves growing in his compassion that leads to action.

Pray for workers in the harvest field

When I think about those who live and work around me, they don’t always seem like the most promising mission field. I look around and doubt whether these people are the sorts of people who might come to faith. Perhaps your community feels more like a desert than a harvest field at the moment: surely nothing spiritually significant could be growing there?

I’m encouraged that Jesus sees things differently. “He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful…’ (Matthew 9:37). What looks to me like cause for discouragement, Jesus sees as signs of opportunity for the gospel. There is a problem, though: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). If we want to see a harvest for the gospel, we must pray for workers in the harvest field.

Pray for your work in the harvest field

When you think of a ‘gospel worker,’ what is the first image that comes to mind? Is it a vicar, or a church-planter, or even an itinerant evangelist? Those people are gifts from God from the good of the church and we should be grateful for them. However, we shouldn’t think they are the only workers for the gospel.

A strange thing happens when you start to pray for more workers in the Lord’s harvest field. You find that a member of your Bible study group has started sharing the gospel with his neighbours. You find that the one other Christian in the office has started reading the Bible with a colleague in her lunchbreak. You even find that someone from your sports team is keen to attend a Christianity Explored course to investigate the claims of Jesus.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field,” Jesus said (Matthew 9:38). As we pray this “other” Lord’s prayer this year, we may well find that he has work prepared for us to do. By his grace, he expects a harvest - and so should we.

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What are your prayers for 2020? Comment below...

Ali Gledhill, 07/01/2020
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