I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. – John 15:1-17
Wouldn’t it be great if whenever we prayed for something we would see the answer we want right away? Our God is sovereign and can do anything; he could answer prayers that way. It is in his power to do so. But it isn’t in his purpose to do so. This section of John’s gospel contains two of the favorite pro-prayer passages in Scripture:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
These seem to be pretty straightforward promises to give us whatever we want and ask for…until, of course, we take into account the context. Nonetheless, they are still powerful promises that are beyond human belief.
I do love it when God answers prayer more or less instantaneously and in doing so presents a glorious demonstration of his works of power. But that isn’t the typical experience of we Christians in the United States. In fact, in Scripture, the really big things God did were most often in the context of a long term walk of faith and perseverance.
The context here in John is helpful. These powerful promises for answered prayer are made in the context of intimate fellowship with Jesus, abiding in him and he in us. The practical reality of intimacy with Jesus removes most of the motivations for instant gratification in prayer because that motivation is most often self-centered and ego driven. We want what we want when we want it. God has bigger designs on us than that.
I believe God takes great pleasure in delighting us with his miraculous demonstrations of power. I believe he takes even more pleasure in conforming us to the image of His Son which confirmation requires being changed by the Holy Spirit and his word through the circumstances of life, going through the rough stuff, not getting instant miraculous answers.
Recently I posted about How to effectively pray for your children. This effective prayer is long-haul. Parenting never ends, it just changes a little as our children go through their growing stages. My kids are now 48 and 50. They are still my kids, and I am still their father. The implementation of fatherhood has changed a little, but I still father my children.
It is helpful for me to combine my recognition of my fatherhood with my prayer life for my family. Effective praying for them comes out of me abiding in Christ and he in me. It is from this place of abiding that I can believe God to fulfill his covenant promises to my wife and me and our children.
Prayer isn’t just “claiming the promises” from a place of “faith,” but claiming his covenant promises out of fellowship with him, a fellowship that is lifelong and never gives up, never quits, but grows in joy and love.
The fruit John speaks of is, I believe, a broad reference to all he produces in our lives as a result of our abiding in him. It includes everything that could not be produced in us apart from our intimate relationship with him. Certainly, it includes the fruit of the Spirit. It also includes Spirit led parenting; it includes making disciples of our friends and neighbors or others whom God puts in our path. All of these things are the product of relationship, intimate relationship, with Jesus.
Do you want to see God move in your life? Get intimate with Jesus. The fruit will be the production of miraculous results of all sorts, the things Jesus was referring to when he said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
God has a purpose in all things. Sometimes it is hard for us to discern God’s purpose in the particulars. But here, he makes it plain.
These things I have spoken to you, [for the purpose] that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
I love this. God’s purpose for us in abiding in him isn’t just answered prayer; it is joy! For those of us who may have been led to believe that the Christian life is to be drab and boring, let this sink in. God’s purpose for us in Christ is our joy.