Prayer for such a time as this? I’m in! But tell me, what are the Wheat Prayers? The Wheat Prayers are my name for two passages linked across Biblical history and community by three Words: Fail, Pray, and Wheat. Of course, as gardeners, the botanical inclusion intrigues us instantly!
Though as gardeners, and more so farmers, we enter in with a measure of trepidation, suspecting that where wheat is mentioned, threshing and winnowing might follow….rigorous, intensive processes of separation, yikes! Yet let us accept this summons to cross a threshold where our understanding of God will be sifted.
Simon Peter’s Sifting
Jesus directs us to The Wheat Prayers with his forthright heads-up:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat…
Luke 22:31 NLT
And there it is, right away: Word of sifting. Let us contemplate its representative dimension, and count “sifting” as the name for our experience when we feel disoriented, thrown about, rattled, unsettled, or shaken; as if whacked by a sickle, laid to the ground, tossed aloft; when we feel separated and exposed, blown into free-fall, scattered by the slightest breeze, or doomed to dry out. Jesus explained to Simon [Peter], his follower and friend that the cause of his impending sifting was satan at work, and that ungrounding chaos in Simon Peter’s devotion would ensue.
For reasons we are not privy to, the Lord allowed satan a time of separating in Simon Peter’s soul, and we are savvy to assume this will be a pattern to expect in our lives and livelihoods as we follow and grow our friendship with Jesus.
Using wheat as a metaphor to illustrate this condition is like a code word, dear gardeners! For we know, with our farmer-comrades, that wheat-sifting is a normal part of the harvest process of this ancient grain, a necessary step if we plan to bake delicious, nourishing, satisfying loaves of bread—or birthday cake!
To forgo sifting would leave us without usable grain or transformation of garden to table in a digestible way. We might behold a beautiful bouquet of wheat stalks, perhaps; yet leaving the wheat kernels in the chaff, the tough, inedible husk that encases them, would leave them unsuitable for eating, yielding no nourishment for mankind or livestock. Even the plants must reseed themselves by chaff cracking open, allowing kernel to emerge, root, and sprout a new crop. Hardened outer layer must go!
The Lord’s response to this reality, to satan’s request for painful processing? Prayer!
… But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32 NLT
Jesus prayed for Simon Peter to plow through the process successfully, trust-tested and strengthened, fortitude ready to be multiplied in those closest to him. He would not fail! This study note recently washed my heart in a wave of relief, being reminded that Jesus has anticipated our siftings as turning points in our lives, solidifying our tested faith with His prayer.
Once you have turned back in repentance.” In Judaism, “turning” (T’shuvah) is not conversion but repentance. Here it refers to [Simon Peter] returning to unshakable trust after denying Yeshua [Jesus] three times (vv.34, 54-62).—study note from Complete Jewish Study Bible, page 1511
Let us learn to consider every time of sifting—an experience of separation, sometimes felt as silence from God—as Wheat Prayers yielding a turn to unshakable trust! A faith to pass on, a faith to strengthen a whole community around us. If we practice identifying this process, we will turn to the Lord immediately and remain standing through trials.
Be on watch and pray always that you will have the strength to go safely through all those things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man.
Luke 21:36 GNT
The Lord looks at our T’Shuvah as His yield, ensuring we will stand before Him—whole communities and nations will be standing before Him. Let “amber waves of grain” represent this glory in a beautiful way!
The corresponding occurrence of the Words “fail” and “pray” take us back in Scripture-history to Israel’s prophet Samuel, who was integral in establishing Israel’s monarchical government. With gardener’s awe, notice the story begins in a wheat harvest! Samuel shocked his people by calling for rain when the grain was ripe…
“Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.” Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel.
1 Samuel 12:17-18 NIV
… a disaster sure to destroy their livelihood. Moisture on the grain heads would hinder the wheat’s harvest, winnowing, nutritional content, and storage. Bowed-over plants would be hard to cut effectively, moisture would keep the chaff from being routinely separated, and piled grainheads would likely mildew and rot.
When standing grain meets rainfall (or sprinkler spray in the case of this wheat in my garden last spring), it will most likely “lodge” or bend over, often failing to ever stand upright again. This severely diminishes yield, nutritional quality, and disease resistance. Samuel’s call for rain implied their starvation and brush with death (v. 19), both physically and spiritually.
Perhaps Samuel knew that it would require this level of desperation to turn them to the LORD—the only One able to save them, the only One great and gracious to embrace them even after their evil actions.
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.
1 Samuel 12:23 NIV
Like Jesus, Samuel accompanied the impending faith-shake up with steadfast prayer. He knew he was calling for a pain-infused harvest, yet safeguarded their T’shuvah to the Lord through his prayer, ensuring that they would not be “lodged” in their evil actions. Samuel had the nation’s attention, and reminded them of where to turn.
Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid. You have indeed done all this evil. Nevertheless, do not turn away from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away to pursue empty things that cannot help you or save you, because they are empty.
1 Samuel 12:20-21 EHV
See how these Scripture-moments resound each other and amplify story elements through three keywords: Wheat, Fail, Pray. We might even notice the numbering of these passages, Luke 22:31 and 1 Samuel 12:23, reflecting 1-2-3 combinations. This concurrence led me to reflect on the strength of Samuel’s commitment to prayer, a heritage of his mother’s intercessory life. She dedicated her desperation in prayer to God, a kernel of which is revealed in a 1-2-3 Scripture:
There is no one holy like the Lord. Yes, there is no one but you, and there is no rock like our God. Do not talk so high and mighty. Do not let proud words come out of your mouth, because the Lord is a God who knows. By him actions are weighed.
1 Samuel 2:2-3 EHV
I think her word of warning is absolutely essential as we lift up these Scripture TODAY, in our current state of evil-sifting in our country, and the desperate work of strengthening our brothers. This is no time for proud boasting, victorious gloating, pretentions proclaiming. Our words will be weighed, and we must not fail to pray! Yet take joy that we are joining Jesus, who has faithfully prayed.
Only fear Adonai, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for think what great things he has done for you!
1 Samuel 12:24 CJB
Read more about wheat in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, in the Celebrating the Harvest series of devotions beginning on page a-36
Discover the fun of planting wheat in your home garden in our Plant Guide, www.gardenindelight.com/plant-guide/wheat/
CJB notes Scripture quotations taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
EHV notes Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® , EHV®, © 2019 Wartburg Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®
GNT denotes Scripture quotations from the Good News Translation® (Today’s English Version, Second Edition) Copyright © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.
NLT denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.