I heard some time ago about a man who saw a talking parakeet for sale. Talking parakeets are generally expensive. This one was only fifteen dollars. So he asked the store owner, “Does this parakeet truly talk?” “Certainly.” “Only fifteen dollars?” “Yes.” “Well, I’ll take him.” The store owner replied, “Now the cage, of course, is thirty dollars.” The man said, “Okay, that’s still not too bad. Forty-five dollars; I’ve got the bird and the cage.”

The man was back at the pet store in several days. He said, “You know, the bird doesn’t talk.” The store owner said, “You did get a little swing, didn’t you?” The man asked, “A swing?” “Yes,” the store owner replied. “Before he talks, he has to get on the swing and swing.” The man asked, “Well, how much is a swing?” “Ten dollars.” “I’ll take a swing, please.”

The man came back again in several days. He said, “Hey, the bird has not said a word.” “The store owner replied, “You mean to say that that bird got on the swing and then looked in the mirror and didn’t say anything?” The man asked, “What mirror?” “Oh,” the store owner exclaimed, “You didn’t get a mirror? You need one of these twelve-dollar mirrors.” The man said, “All right, give me a mirror.”

A few days later the man was back. He said, “The bird is still not talking.” The store owner said, “Oh, don’t tell me. You mean the bird got on the swing and swung, and looked in the mirror, and went up and down the little ladder and didn’t say a word?” The man asked, “What ladder?” The store owner replied, “You didn’t get a ladder? Oh, you need one of these nine-dollar ladders.”

The man bought a ladder and soon was back, same story. He said, “Mister, this bird is not saying a word.” The store owner asked, “You mean to say he pecked the bell and didn’t say anything?” “What do you mean?” “Oh, he always pecks the bell before he talks.” “All right. I want the bell.”

Then one day the man came in the pet store. He went straight to the owner and said, “Mister, that bird died!” “He died?” the owner asked. “He sure did.” “Well, what happened?” “He got on the swing and he swung back and forth. And then he went up and down the little ladder. Then he came back down and he looked in the mirror. And then he pecked the bell. And then he turned to me and said something.” “Oh,” said the store owner, “he did talk! What did he say?” “He said, ‘Don’t they sell any birdseed in that store?’ And then he dropped over dead!”

Something more important than the bell and the mirror and the ladder is the birdseed. In this chapter, I want to talk to you about proper priorities—putting first things first.

Here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 6:10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” That is the priority of the prayer—for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done. In verses 31–33 of the same chapter we read, “. . . What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

What He’s talking about here, therefore, in this prayer is the power of proper priorities.

Most of us get in trouble when we put God in second place and put things first. We are living in the realm of things, when, instead, we’re to be, according to what Jesus taught us to pray, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When that happens, the Bible tells us, “all these things shall be added unto us.”

Is It Full?

Stephen Covey tells a story about a professor in college teaching time management to his students. He came in the class one day with a big, wide-mouth jar that would hold several gallons. He also had some big rocks, about the size of a fist. He put those rocks in the mouth of that jar until the rocks came all the way up to the top. Then he asked the students, “Is the jar full?” The students nodded their heads. He said, “No, it’s not full.”

Then he reached under his desk and got a bucket of gravel and poured the gravel in on top of the rocks. The gravel began to fill in around the rocks. He shook it down real good and asked, “Now is the jar full?” They were afraid to answer, but some nodded, “Yes, it’s full now.” He said, “No, it’s not full yet.” He reached under his desk and got a bucket of sand and began to pour the sand in on top of the gravel and the big rocks, and shook it and smoothed it off at the top. He said, “Now is the jar full?” They were too skittish to answer. And some of the wiser ones said, “No, it’s not full yet.” He said, “You’re right.”

And then he reached down and got a bucket of water and poured the water in the jar. As he did, it seeped down through the sand, through the gravel, and around the big rocks. It came all the way up to the brim. And he said, “Now is the jar full?” And they said, “We think so.” He said, “You’re right. The jar is full.”

Then the professor asked, “Now what is the lesson?” Various ones of them said things like, “Well, there are a lot of lessons there. Perhaps the lesson is that you may think that you can’t get any more in your life, but with proper management, you can always squeeze something else in.”

He said, “No, that is not the lesson. Here is the lesson. If I had not put the big rocks in first, I never would have got them in.”

Friend, what you and I need to do is determine what are the big rocks. A lot of times we are living our lives, and our jar is filled with gravel and sand and water. Then we come to the end of the trail and we find out we did not put the big rocks in first. We did not have proper priorities. And so our Lord, in this incredible lesson on prayer, teaches us that we’ve got to have proper priorities. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

Adrian Rogers and Steve Rogers, When We Say Father: Unlocking the Power of the Lord’s Prayer (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2018).