As I read through Luke 10:1-24, a couple of things struck me.
First, the strong imperative from Christ to ‘pray earnestly’:
After this the Lord appointed seventy two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. (10:1-2)
I’ve been trying, since the beginning of this week, to start every morning with prayer, and prayer particularly for revival. Thus Christ’s command here deeply resonated with me. Ryle had this to say:
Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. It is a means within the reach of all who have the Spirit of adoption. Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts, or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel – and they ought to pray for it daily. Many and marvellous are the answers to prayer which are recorded for our learning in the Bible. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)
Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4) He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication. (Eph 6:17,18) This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work. Colleges may educate men. Bishops may ordain them. Patrons may give them livings. But God alone can raise up and send forth “labourers” who will do work among souls. For a constant supply of such labourers let us daily pray.”
– Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 345-6
A second thing which struck me was the sovereignty of God in our salvation. At 10:21-22, Jesus rejoiced (rejoiced!) in the Holy Spirit, thanking God the Father that He had ‘hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children’, for such was His ‘gracious will.’ Christ goes on:
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (10:22)
The Spirit blows where it pleases. God saves those He chooses, in Christ (cf Eph 1:1-14). Ryle again:
The truth here laid down is deep and mysterious. ‘It is high as heaven: what can we do? It is deep as hell: what do we know?’ Why some around us are converted and others remain dead in sins, we cannot possibly explain. Why England is a Christian country and China buried in idolatry*, is a problem we cannot solve. We only know that it is so. We can only acknowledge that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ supply the only answer that mortal man ought to give: ‘Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.’ (v24, KJV)
– Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 356 (*published in 1858)
And I suppose this is what makes prayer and petition all the more important.
Father, You call us to intercede for the success of Your gospel, to stand in the gap for the lost. “Pray earnestly”, is Your command. I will pray. And I ask that You would save.