The prayer “Give me Scotland or I die” famously came from the lips of John Knox, the Scottish reformer. God used Knox to bring about the reformation of the church and the transformation of the nation. Such was the impact of his ministry that Mary, Queen of Scots is reputed to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”
Knox had a great burden for the salvation of men and women in his beloved nation, so he prayed hard and worked hard over many years and against much opposition to advance the cause of Christ in Scotland. Knox would take no credit for the spiritual and social reformation but, in words applied to others, he explained: “God gave his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.”
In Scotland today, we want to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ advance, impacting cities and towns as well as individual lives. While we depend upon our sovereign God to do his work, the spiritual need is so great that we can easily become overwhelmed by the task. Amid this we must remember what Jesus tells us. In the “other Lord’s prayer” he says: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38). This is a prayer about the expansion of God’s Kingdom in the world. It is a prayer that Jesus commands his disciples to pray, so it is our prayer, too. When did we last pray and ask God to send out more workers into his harvest field?
This particular prayer comes at a significant moment in the ministry of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus had just been teaching and training his disciples and he is about to send them out on his mission, but before he sends them out for the first time he tells them to pray for more workers. Jesus had been going through the towns and villages, encountering a phenomenal amount of people.
His reaction is startling: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36). When we read that Jesus had “compassion,” the word used is very strong. Literally, Jesus was moved in his bowels or his guts. He was stirred deep down inside for all the troubled and helpless people who were lost. It is this compassion Jesus has for lost people which results in his call to pray this Kingdom-focused prayer.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Today, the world is still a vast harvest, whether in Scotland, the USA, or anywhere else; there are crowds of men and women in desperate need of salvation. Yet the task of gathering the people God is going to save needs more workers. Therefore, the call to pray for them is just as urgent today as it has ever been. Jesus tells us that it is God, as Lord of the harvest, who will send the workers, but we still have a crucial role to play in praying that God would send them out.
Does our compassion for those who are helpless and lost motivate us to pray this Kingdom-centered prayer? The danger is that if we are not moved deep down inside and burdened for those who are lost, Jesus-like, as John Knox was, then we will neglect to pray Jesus’ prayer. Only when we open our eyes to see the great need around us and open our hearts to feel compassion for the lost, will we open our mouths to pray as Jesus commands.
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Are you praying this?