Posted November 17, 2014
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
These were words spoken by Jesus to His disciples in His famous Farewell Discourse (John 13-17). Just a few verses before at the beginning of chapter 15, He reveals that He is the Vine and they are the branches, and if they abide in Him they will bear much fruit. In verse 7, He carries on with His abiding theme but this time in the context of answered prayer. The subject of answered prayer can be somewhat controversial and even painful for many people, dependent on what your experience has been. Some people read this verse and think this is carte blanche to ask for anything and everything. Others have sought God to heal themselves or a loved one, only to be let down when the prayer request was not answered the way they hoped for. So what does this verse mean? He gives two basic conditions regarding answered prayer, so let’s dig underneath each of them:
If You Abide In Me
We are not the Vine, Jesus is; we receive our nourishment from Him, not vice versa. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. The abiding described in John 15 is to be a joyful and continual relationship with Jesus marked by dependence, trust, and obedience. It’s not a vague mystical term, but rather one that relies on Jesus for all of life. Just as He is the Vine and through His nourishing life we become increasingly like Him, so our prayers will become increasingly like His as well! The more we abide in Him, the more we’ll pray like Him.
If My Words Abide In You
Jesus doesn’t only want us to abide in Him, but He wants His words to abide in us. This isn’t about merely Scripture memorization; it points us also to a responsive obedience to Jesus and His revelation of Himself (the Bible). These verses are pointing us less to strict discipline (though it could it include that) and more to a beautiful union with the Son of God that changes us in every way! We must learn to love His Word by reading, studying, meditating, and savoring it but it must not end there. Jesus’ words take a trajectory within the life of the true believer, and by the Spirit, will lead us into both belief and obedience. As we know His words and His words abide in us, we will pray accordingly!
Jon Bloom, the President of Desiring God, commented, “So by these two conditions—staying in Jesus and having Jesus’ words stay in us—he shapes our desires and our thoughts through the Holy Spirit so that our wishes and his are increasingly the same. You see, it is only natural that a branch should receive exactly what it needs from the vine. The only time our prayers seem to go unanswered are when 1) we don’t share Jesus’ wishes because we aren’t abiding in him (James 4:3) or 2) we don’t share Jesus’ timeline, or 3) we don’t recognize Jesus’ unexpected answers. This is a promise that Jesus wants you to believe and one he loves to fulfill. Because through it we discover that our joy doesn’t spring from Jesus giving us what we want but Jesus being what we want.”