Every morning, believers all over the world wake up and recite The Lord’s Prayer. In fact, it was the first thing out of my mouth today. Although I’d like to think that saying The Lord’s Prayer is my way of telling God, you woke me up, and you are all that I can think about, these days I’ve simply gotten into the habit of saying it. But, when I do say it, everytime I say it, it changes my day. This prayer raises my consciousness of God. It takes me out of my bedroom and the concerns of the day and into the throneroom where, just for a minute, I am concerned with what pleases God. That ability to look to God in the morning is a practice that has power.
A couple months ago, I was studying the Bible and a line from The Lord’s Prayer came to mind: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When this line came into my mind I was studying the Book of Luke. In Luke 13:18, Jesus asked his disciples a rhetorical question, saying, “What is the kingdom of God like?” In verse 19, he answered his own question, saying:
It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches (Luke 13:19).
In The Lord’s Prayer Jesus tells us to ask for the kingdom of God to come to earth. In Luke 13:19 he tells us what the kingdom of God is like. Placing Luke 13:19 alongside this line from The Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done…” a simple truth was illuminated in my mind. I realized that, taken together, these two lines of scripture, were his way of telling his disciples both what to ask for and how to know when it appears. Jesus’ point in Luke 13:18-19 is that the kingdom of God is a seed. When we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done…”, we are not praying for a grand, earth-shattering event. When we pray for the kingdom of God to come, we are praying for a seed. But not just any seed.
Jesus specified the kind of seed that the kingdom of God is like: a mustard seed. The photograph below (left) depicts a pile of mustard seeds. They are tiny, miniscule, round seeds. Mustard seeds are usually about 1 to 2 millimetres (0.039 to 0.079 in) in diameter and may be colored from yellowish white to black. They are an important spice in many regional foods and may come from one of three different plants: black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown Indian mustard (B. juncea), or white/yellow mustard (B. hirta/Sinapis alba).
On the right, is a mustard tree. “…the mustard tree (Salvadora persica) grows wild throughout much of the Middle East and Africa. Generally attaining a height no taller than 25 feet with fleshy, 1 1/2- to 3-inch leaves, the tree takes advantage of damp conditions near rivers and waterholes but can survive on fewer than 8 inches of rainfall per year.” (Stallsmith, n.d., “Mustard Tree Facts,” https://www.hunker.com/13429114/mustard-tree-facts).
In Luke 13:18-19, Jesus used the mustard seed to explain to us what the Kingdom of God is like. An understanding of what the Kingdom of God is like gives us an opportunity. If we know what the kingdom is like then we can identify it. To pray The Lord’s Prayer is not to be someone who looks for fruit growing on full-grown trees. A disciple is someone who looks for seeds to plant in the ground.
What does this mean to us? It means that when we ask God “your kingdom come, your will be done…” we are asking God to send us a mustard seed. And this is an important point to make note of. Because, from what I know about American society, no one is looking for a mustard seed.
Mustard seeds are ideas for new businesses that take work to build, tithes and offerings at church that mean we cannot spend that money on a new outfit or our favorite lunch meal, time spent volunteering at a homeless shelter with people whose lives seem to be going nowhere, giving to someone who asks you, and the list goes on. Mustard seeds are things that we see as being insignificant because our culture has psychologically programmed us to devalue them. Mustard seeds are small things that we think do not matter like a hug, a gift, cleaning up behind yourself so that the person after you can enjoy a clean bathroom, a kind word, a respectful response, anything small that could grow. We overlook these things because they are small but they are the foundation of respect, love, and peace between human beings. We look for something big but those truly big things come from small acts repeated consistently over time. Jesus says that mustard seeds — the small things that you don’t value — are the makings of the kingdom.
So, when we pray to God, saying, “your kingdom come, your will be done…” we are asking God to send us small things that do not produce immediate visual results. In response, we show God that we understand his kingdom by praising him for the small things that we receive from him. And, we honor him by doing the work to make those small things grow.