I live and serve in a rural area. Actually, it’s pretty good since I don’t have to deal with Atlanta traffic and I’m halfway between Atlanta and Greenville, SC. Kathy and I love it here. One of the things we love is that we have a vegetable garden. Last year we had the largest garden, we’ve ever had. This year we doubled it. Mind you, the house sits on less than an acre of land and the garden is a small area in the back corner of the yard, so it’s not big by any means but it is our garden.
One of my regular half-joking statements is “There’s a sermon in that somewhere”. Well, after we planted this year’s garden last weekend, I posted on Facebook and tweeted on Twitter about it and made the comment, “There’s a sermon in that somewhere”. Several people, including my dad, made reference to the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13). What I actually had in mind was Paul’s writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3) in regards to the divisions and jealousy in the church. And I’ll probably develop a sermon out of that but right now, I’m thinking about the similarity between prayer and gardening. Here’s my initial take on this. I hope to add more later.
Gardening takes work – you prepare the soil, you get and plant seed, you expect a harvest. Prayer takes work – you prepare your heart, you get and plant seed – in the form of faith and your prayer, and you expect a “harvest”. I asked the question in church recently, “When you pray, what do you expect?”. If we don’t expect anything – then why bother?
You don’t plant a garden and then just ignore it. You SHOULDN’T just pray a prayer and then ignore it either.
Gardening is sometimes a group effort. We needed help from a church member to get the ground tilled, we got some composted manure from another, the plants and seeds were bought at different places, and advice and wisdom came from multiple sources: my dad, Mr. Maddox at the seed store, etc. Prayer is sometimes a group effort: we enlist the help of our friends and family to join us in praying for situations, we gather for events like the National Day of Prayer later this week, and we get advice and wisdom from saints (and sinners) who have gone before us.
If you ask several people, you’ll probably get several answers about when and how to plant. If you ask several people, you’ll probably get several answers about when and how to pray. It’s not the content or style of our prayer that really matters, it’s the One to whom we pray.
In gardening, after all is said in done, you are dependent on something other than yourself on getting results. In praying, the same thing is true.
And I think I’ll end for now with one more similarity – in gardening or praying, you end up on your knees a lot :-).