Seeds in Life's Soil
For this prayer you will need a small object that either is or can represent a seed to you. A dry bean would work well, but so would a button, a paperclip, or some other item you have handy.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
This Parable is often called, “The Parable of the Sower and Explanation.” As I have come to understand this parable over the years, it is not so much a parable that describes certain types of individuals in the world, that some are rocky soil and others thorns, that some are pathways, and then there are a few that are good soil. This is one interpretation, but a better one for us as disciples engaged in examining our own life is that there are times and places in every individual’s life that they are all four types of soil. To say this and then go exploring your life with that as your guiding principle will perhaps not be most comfortable exploration of your life, at least if you are being honest with yourself. It will be uncomfortable because it will bring up places where you will have considered yourself to have “failed,” However, in light of what Jesus is actually saying in the parable, to pick up those times and places in prayer, and to look at them with Jesus as our companion, it truly offers you the opportunity to examine them closely and to see where the fault really lies. Looking at these times is an opportunity to see where the fault was simply the circumstances of the world, where it was your own age and its consequential emotional, physical, and mental development, or even where it was your own distorted views of who you are and what you are capable of. Bringing these times into a conversation with Jesus can be an opportunity to put them to rest once and for all, and to be released from them. On the other hand, if you do find you are truly at fault somewhere, it is a chance to confess, to receive forgiveness, and move in new directions which is a form of freedom in and of itself. Similarly, to reflect on where God’s word has fallen on good soil in your life is an opportunity to see with clarity, how your unique giftedness contributes to God’s Kingdom in our midst and where you are bearing good fruit in this world.
Let us pray:
Place your seed in a hand that is held wide open and flat. This is the seed that has fallen on the paths of your life. Where Jesus says, you heard the word and did not understand it and thus the evil one came and snatched it away. With your other hand, remove the seed from your wide open hand. As you do so, bring to mind a time that you did not understand something as a message about the kingdom of God. Are you still without understanding? Has your understanding evolved? Are you beating yourself up over your lack of understanding, or are you holding a younger self who knew no better accountable for its indiscretions? Talk with Jesus about the times you have not understood, ask for his help in understanding better. Where there is fault, hear his forgiveness, where there was no fault, let go of the past, in so far as changes can be made, commit to a deeper understanding that your many paths may become fertile soil.
Now, place your seed in an open hand with wide-spread fingers. This is the seed that has fallen on rocky soil. Where Jesus says it is received with joy but has no depth to sustain it. As your seed sits in this soil, bring to mind a time where you received God’s word with enthusiasm, and sprung to life but soon withered away. As you recall this time, how old were you? What were the circumstances surrounding your hearing of God’s word? What sort of support was offered and received? As you recall your response, was it really in keeping with who you have come to know yourself to be? Talk with Jesus about the times you have responded to the word but there has been no depth of soil to support its growth. Where there is fault, hear his forgiveness, where there was no fault, let go of the past, in so far as changes can be made consider the possibility of replanting that seed where you know the soil is good.
Next, place the seed in a closed fist. This is the seed that has fallen in the thorns which choke out its life. Where Jesus says, the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word and it yields nothing. As you clutch your seed, bring to mind a time when the word was choked in you.
What were the cares of the world that came into play? How legitimate do you consider these concerns and what if anything did you truly have control over? What lured you away and what still lures you? Are there aspects of the kingdom of God that you find even more appealing than these lures? Talk with Jesus about the times God’s word has been choked in you. Where there is fault, hear his forgiveness, where there was no fault, let go of the past, in so far as changes can be made, focus on how the Kingdom of God appeals to you.
Finally hold your seed lovingly in both hands. This is the seed that has fallen in good soil. Where Jesus says you have understood, and borne fruit, 100, 60, or 30 fold. As you hold your seed in the good soil of your life, bring to mind a time when you feel you were being fruitful. Who was involved in this time? What was your role? What did you most enjoy about the contribution you were making? What difference did you see yourself making? Talk with Jesus about this time that you bore so much fruit. Thank him for placing that seed in the good soil of your life and ask him for more opportunities like that one.
As you prepare to close your time of prayer, put your seed somewhere you will see it for the next few days. As you do continue your conversations with Jesus as you explore where the seed of God’s word has fallen in your life.
Patrick Sipes is the founder and director of The Forming Spirit. You can learn more about him here.