“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?
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 13:18-19 NIV
I am writing today as a little bird perched in the ministering branches of Moms in Prayer, nestled in its boughs (Ezekiel 31:6). The ministry celebrated its 30th birthday in Dallas last weekend; three decades of moms gathering together weekly to pour out our hearts like water for the lives of our children (Lamentations 2:19).
How is this a tree-from-a-mustard-seed garden story?
Founder Fern Nichols began with a mustard seed-sized plea for the LORD to send her one mom from her sons’ school to pray with for their junior high students. She had a humble, fear-driven hope for the LORD to protect her sons as they entered the perilous teenage years, and a meek understanding that where two on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by our Father in heaven (Matthew 18:19). Soon she connected with a mom willing to pray with her once a week. They met regularly, and more joined them, and then moms from neighboring schools began meeting weekly, to pray for their students as well.
The movement has grown and become a branching network of moms praying in 146 nations, touching every continent except the land mass of Greenland (look out, Greenland!). Slowly but certainly since the 1980’s the idea of weekly intercession that Nichols planted in the garden of her life did not sprout a mere metaphorical mustard plant, but grew and became a tree-like sheltered structure of prayer around the world.
Moms like me in the faraway land of Texas, along with others from New York to Norway to Namibia, have grown up in this simple garden story, increasing our faith by turning our worries into prayers (Philippians 4:6) and witnessing the marvelous deeds of the LORD (Psalm 72:18).
Naturally, Nichols had no idea an international prayer ministry would possibly grow from her mother’s cry for the lives of her children. Yet her simple faith in God’s promises was all that was needed to grow a big ministry from a little prayer—a tree from a mustard seed, so to speak.
True to God’s multiply, increase, and fill manner, many moms have embraced the pattern of weekly prayer, in turn pouring out our own hearts for our children and beholding the mustard-to-tree surprises growing up in our own lives: Never did I expect my Moms in Prayer tradition of praying God’s Word for my children’s lives would grow and become a book relating gardening to God’s Word! Praying one Scripture each week over our children slowed me down to see the depth and beauty in even one verse, and prepared my heart for devotional writing in the most unexpected way.
What is Nichols’ response to the glorious growth of Moms in Prayer? Laughter! the common response when realizing the possibilities that only God could promise.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” Genesis 21:6
Joy resounds from her soul and story after story was recounted with praise and amazement at the festival celebration, relishing the magnitude of what has sprung up from their simple faithful plea.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2
Look for this story pattern in your own lives, dear gardeners. What small actions taken in faith have grown and become the largest, tree-like events, sheltering your life and the lives of those perched and nestled near you, all the while amazing you with unexpected delight? Such occurrences are likely broadcast about you, like the wild mustard blooms peppering fields and vineyards each spring. This is the way God’s works come about: He writes garden stories, after all.
Photo Credit: ©2014 Shelley S. Cramm Wild mustard flowers with seed pods forming along the stems