We’ve been studying the parable of the sower. We’ve learned that before you sow you first must plough the soil, and we’ve discussed what it means to clear the rocks and pull the weeds. We’ve seen how many strategies are helpful in preparing the sower but not fruitful when it comes to altering the hearts and minds of the people.

I remember watching construction workers dig up the cement walkway in front of our home in Hong Kong. First they worked on the cement with noisy jack hammers–that took nearly a week. Then with picks and shovels they tore up the ground removing the rubble. It was a lot of very hard work. It took weeks to replace that pathway.

Many of us have been called to sow and yield a harvest in hard ground. So what is Jesus teaching us about yielding a 100-fold crop out of hard ground? Before sowing any seed, we need to break up hard ground; we need to plough. I believe two ploughs are needed. Like a 2-edged sword, these ploughs penetrate the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow transforming the thoughts and attitudes of a person’s heart. One is not enough. Both ploughs are essential for ploughing and breaking up hard ground. The first plough opens up the ground, while the second plough turns the soil over.

Plough #1

There’s probably 20 texts I could use to clarify this, but I will use Mark 9:16-29.

The situation is that the disciples and people are arguing, and Jesus asks, “What are you arguing with them about?” Jesus is told there’s a demonized boy who the disciples cannot heal. How does Jesus respond? “You unbelieving generation… How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

The father then explains how the demon throws the boy into the fire or water to kill him. And then pleads, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Here is a man who is shallow, stony ground. He needs some ploughing some watering, some fertilization, some care. Even with the disciples present, the ground remains hard and rocky. Unbelief and the presence of the demon is strong. So what does Jesus’ ploughing look like? FAITH. BELIEVE. Everything is possible for the one who believes. And how is Faith applied?

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Jesus healed the boy. Afterward verse 28 says, After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Faith is applied by acting upon it. “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” So is faith one of the ploughs God uses to break up hard ground? No. Look at the text. Faith is birthed out of prayer. Prayer is needed to build faith. Prayer is essential to having an intimate relationship with God. The first plough that we need to grasp if we are going to break up the hard ground is prayer. We need to remind one another of the need to pray and not quit.

But this prayer is not simply ‘God bless you’ types of prayer. It is an intercessory prayer: a joining with God in asking His will to be done, first in our own lives and then through our lives. It is a prayer that heals the hurting, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is a prayer that binds up Satan. It is a prayer that never ceases. It is prayer that transforms our own lives, empowering His presence within us to transform the lives of others.

The first plough Jesus employs to break up hard ground is PRAYER.

We all have had many teachings on prayer. Probably many of us have taught others about prayer. So I won’t dwell on this plough. But I need to ask; How much of our prayer times are focused on ploughing the soil? Fertilizing? Watering?



PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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