I will never forget the time I realized I was in an unreached city. I was traveling around a country in the Middle East at the time, accompanied by a good friend. We had journeyed from the capital city of that country (which has a few small believing congregations) to a city of more than one million people. One million souls and not one church. One million souls and not a single Christian. My heart broke for it, this city and its unreached million.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When [the merchant] found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46).
I’ve often meditated on the parable of the pearl in Matthew 13 and imagined what it would look like to live like this merchant, with that same sense of urgency. Usually I start thinking of all the things I could and should do. My hands itch to “fix” the brokenness that grieves my heart. But when I reflect on Jesus’ life, I’m forced to pause. Consider with me how much time Jesus spent on this earth in stillness and prayer. We tend to focus on all his works and deeds; after all, it was his miracles that made him famous across Judea. And yet he was not fixing the brokenness of the world as we sometimes wish to fix it: he was pointing the lost to himself.
Jesus prayed without ceasing. his ministry, his miracles, his actions: all were rooted in prayer and meditation. And if Jesus, the Christ, the Savior of the world, had to pray, should we not follow that example? His disciples thought so, as we read in Luke 11, when “one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” (Luke 11:1).
And so, when I consider Christ, when I consider his precious Kingdom of Heaven as a pearl beyond compare, and when I think about really pursuing this Kingdom, I see I’m called to take action of a different kind. Instead of pulling up my bootstraps and imagining I can “fix” things, I should be bending my will by bending my knees. I should be driven to pray.
Prayer is the tool Christians always seem conscious of, but do we actually “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17)? How often do we pray boldly, asking God to do amazing things? How often do we pray for our enemies?
If you look at the command Jesus gives us at the end of Matthew 5, “enemy” is juxtaposed with “neighbor.” Here, an enemy is simply the other: a person not of your own people. Understanding this in conjunction with the Great Commission, we should pray without ceasing for those who go into cultures different from our own and preach the good news there. Our prayers allow us to participate in the divine directive of making neighbors out of enemies.
This year’s Global Outreach Conference focuses on the Untold Story: that wonderful life-transforming gospel which has not yet been brought to many in the world. When we consider the numbers of the unreached and the pressing need for evangelism, it may be tempting to feel discouraged or even hopeless. But when our hearts ache for those lost cities, we must hold fast, trusting that God will accomplish his good work in his good time. We must hold fast and pray.
Come listen to the Untold Story! Hear what God is already doing in the world through his servants. Learn how we can better pray for our brothers and sisters in different contexts. Lord, teach us to pray.
The 2014 Global Outreach Conference runs from November 2–16. For more information and to register for the untold Story Night and the Behind Burqa #3 banquet, check out tenth.org/goconference or pick up a conference brochure in our lobbies.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By David Wynne. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org