You Must Plow Before You Sow
By A. E. Reinschmidt
“Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jer. 4:3).
“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psa. 126:6).
In the spiritual harvest field, the plowing is done by prayer. The seed sowing is “the ministry of the Word” – preaching, teaching, witnessing, etc. So the Lord’s first “harvest hands,” following the example of the Heavenly Agriculturist, at the outset said: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).
Notice the order: Prayer first. Prayer is to the ministry of the Word (the seed), what plowing is to the planting of seed on the farm or in the garden.
The house of God, once “a house of prayer,” is now a house of preaching and teaching and religious education. But without prayer to break up the fallow ground (the sinful, selfish hearts of the people), it is vain to sow the seed, for the Word cannot break up the ground without prayer. Does a farmer hope to break up a field by dropping seed upon it? No, but we bunglers do!
We say again, prayer is to preaching, what plowing is to sowing. When we preach and teach and testify with cold, prayerless lips, the “good seed” is lost, mostly. Remember, that which “fell by the wayside” (on fallow ground) was caught away by the devil (Matt. 13:4, 19). Prayer is hard work sometimes. But preaching the Gospel to a congregation of hard-hearted, indifferent people, is much harder!
When there is much of prayer before the ministry of the Word, preaching is easy, and a very little of it will be needed, comparatively speaking. In a village of South India, a certain chief and his people withstood the missionary and his preaching for twenty years. Finally the missionary and his helpers appointed a ten-day season of prayer, asking friends to join with them. Immediately after this season of prayer, the missionary went once more to that village, and soon the chief accepted the Lord and enough of his people with him to form a Christian church in that village.
Sometimes prayer is harder work than preaching, as plowing is harder work than sowing grain. Plowing takes more time than sowing. To prepare some fields for planting, it takes days of hard labor, but those same fields can be planted to seed in one short hour.
The same is true with regard to “prayer, and the ministry of the Word.” But a pint of seed planted in broken ground will bring a greater harvest than a bushel of seed cast onto unplowed ground. The same thing is true in the kingdom! The Holy Spirit, in answer to the prayer of those who will let Him pray in them, will prepare hearts to receive the Word. Those hearts which have been stirred by someone’s prayer will “gladly” receive the Word (Acts 2:41).