Summary: What makes for an effective prayer life?
READ: John 15:1-8 (Text: v7).
[Read v7 again]. What EXACTLY does this verse mean? What is being promised here? It appears to be a kind of "BLANK CHEQUE" that God has signed for us, so that we can have whatever we want; but is that really the case? If it IS a "blank cheque", then why have I prayed prayers that have gone unanswered?
I believe that God answers prayer. I believe in a God of the miraculous who supernaturally intervenes in the affairs of men in RESPONSE to prayer. But I do not believe that prayer is a means of "twisting God’s arm" to get what WE want! God is NOT some "genie of the lamp", who we can conjure up to do our petty bidding. I CANNOT CONCEIVE OF A GOD WHO WOULD ALLOW HIMSELF TO BE MANIPULATED BY HIS OWN CREATURES LIKE THAT!
On the other hand, however, this verse is not just vain words either. It’s not some half-baked promise that Jesus made with no intention of really keeping in a practical way. MEN SPEAK LIKE THAT - GOD NEVER DOES! This is the SURE WORD of God, and you can stake your life on it being fulfilled!
One factor which gives me great confidence that Jesus isn’t just speaking "off the cuff" - an insignificant "maybe" kind of promise - is that He clearly states it three times in this one conversation with the disciples. Here we are at the occasion of the last supper, and Jesus says ... [READ 14:12-14, 15:7-8, and 15:16]. Three times He makes the promise! [RE-READ text v7 for emphasis].
BUT, we need to look at what our text verse says. It is essentially an "IF ... THEN" statement. "IF you abide in Me, and IF My words abide in you, THEN you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." There are a number of unconditional promises that God gives us in Scripture - this is NOT one of them.
Jesus, then, categorically states that SUCCESSFUL, EFFECTIVE PRAYER is contingent upon a relationship of "ABIDING IN CHRIST". This may sound, at first, like God has provided Himself with a "LOOPHOLE" - but I assure that that is NOT His intention. This verse is intensely practical, and God desires that every believer be in this relationship of ABIDING, and He has every intention of keeping His promise to answer every one of your prayers. This morning, God is extending to you "The Master Key of Prayer". He would have us all to continually dwell in this relationship of ABIDING in Him, that He might pour out an abundance of blessing that we won’t be able to contain it! This morning I want to address this subject of "The Master Key of Prayer: Abiding in Christ".
Before we continue, however, let me preface my remarks with this word of encouragement. The term "abiding in Christ" can (if it is unqualified) have a certain "vagueness" about it. This has lent itself to some people giving the impression that "abiding" is some MYSTICAL STATE that might be achievable to you if you’re faithful for the next 35-40 years. That can be very discouraging can’t it. But I want to assure you today that this "abiding in Christ" is a very practical process, and Jesus qualifies for us exactly what it involves. YOU can go out from this place today "abiding in Christ", and continue to do so. The most wonderful thing about God’s Word is its SIMPLICITY - a child can understand it, and apply it. God makes His requirements very plain. God deals in REALITY, not in the "nebulous never-never"; and He loves you too much to play games with you. We’re going to look at this together now.
OK, we have a condition to be fulfilled. "IF you abide in Me, and My words abide in you". Let’s look at this "ABIDING".
1. The CONDITION: "Abiding".
Notice with me, firstly:
A. The EMPOWERMENT FOR Abiding in Christ.
The whole point of this picture that Jesus draws for us of the vine and the branches is that He is our LIFE-SOURCE. The branches cannot live, and they most certainly cannot be fruitful, unless they are connected to the main vine. The vine is the root and stock - the branches depend upon it for everything. Jesus says "without Me you can do (precisely) NOTHING".
"IN HIM we live and move and have our being", Paul writes. In 2 Cor 3:5 the same apostle writes: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, BUT OUR SUFFICIENCY IS FROM GOD."
If you want to abide in the vine, Christ Jesus - if you desire to be a fruitful Christian - you must put away all thoughts that you can achieve this on your own steam. The vine must support the branch - Christ alone must be your source, your life force.