“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) The whole secret of prayer is found in these words of our Lord. Here is the prayer that has unbounded power: “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
There is a way then of asking and getting precisely what we ask and getting all we ask. Christ gives two conditions of this all-prevailing prayer:
- The first condition is, “If you abide in me.”
What is it to abide in Christ?
Some explanations that have been given of this are so mystical or so profound that to many simple-minded children of God they mean practically nothing at all, but what Jesus meant was really very simple.
He had been comparing himself to a vine, his disciples to the branches in the vine, some branches continued in the vine, that is, remained in living union with the vine, so that the sap or life of the vine constantly flowed into these branches. They had no independent life of their own. Everything in them was simply the outcome of the life of the vine flowing into them. Their buds, their leaves, their blossoms, their fruit, were really not theirs, but the buds, leaves, blossoms, and fruit of the vine. Other branches were completely severed from the vine, or else the flow of the sap or life of the vine into them was in some way hindered. Now for us to abide in Christ is for us to bear the same relation to him that the first sort of branches bear to the vine; that is to say, to abide in Christ is to renounce any independent life of our own, to give up trying to think our thoughts, or form our resolutions, or cultivate our feelings, and simply and constantly look to Christ to think his thoughts in us, to form his purposes in us, to feel His emotions and affections in us. It is to renounce all life independent of Christ, and constantly to look to him for the inflow of his life into us, and the outworking of his life through us. When we do this, and in so far as we do this, our prayers will obtain that which we seek from God.
This must necessarily be so, for our desires will not be our own desires, but Christ’s, and our prayers will not, in reality, be our own prayers, but Christ praying in us. Such prayers will always be in harmony with God’s will, and the Father heareth him always. When our prayers fail it is because they are indeed our prayers. We have conceived the desire and framed the petition of ourselves, instead of looking to Christ to pray through us.
To say that one should be abiding in Christ in all his prayers, looking to Christ to pray through him rather than praying himself, is simply saying in another way that one should pray “in the Spirit.” When we thus abide in Christ, our thoughts are not our own thoughts, but his, our joys are not our own joys, but his, our fruit is not our own fruit, but his; just as the buds, leaves, blossoms, and fruit of the branch that abides in the vine are not the buds, leaves, blossoms and fruit of the branch, but of the vine itself whose life is flowing into the branch and manifests itself in these buds, leaves, blossoms and fruit.
To abide in Christ, one must of course already be in Christ through the acceptance of Christ as an atoning Savior from the guilt of sin, a risen Savior from the power of sin, and a Lord and Master over all his life. Being in Christ, all that we have to do to abide (or continue) in Christ is simply to renounce our self-life, utterly renouncing every thought, every purpose, every desire, every affection of our own and just looking day by day and hour by hour for Jesus Christ to form his thoughts, his purposes, his affections, his desires in us. Abiding in Christ is really a very simple matter, though it is a wonderful life of privilege and of power.
- But there is another condition stated in this verse, though it is really involved in the first: “and my words abide in you.”
If we are to obtain from God all that we ask from him, Christ’s words must abide or continue in us. We must study his words, fairly devour his words, let them sink into our thought and into our heart, keep them in our memory, obey them constantly in our life, let them shape and mold our daily life and our every act. When we have a biblical worldview, being led by God’s Word, we have the mind of Christ.
This is really the method of abiding in Christ. It is through his words that Jesus imparts himself to us. The words he speaks unto us, they are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63.) It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we meditate much upon the words of Christ, and let them sink deep and find a permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in their neglect of the words of Christ. They have not hidden his words in their hearts; his words do not abide in them. It is not by seasons of mystical meditation and rapturous experiences that we learn to abide in Christ; it is by feeding upon His word, his written word as found in the Bible, and looking to the Holy Spirit to implant these words in our hearts and to make them a living thing in our hearts. If we thus let the words of Christ abide in us, they will stir us up to prayer. They will be the mold in which our prayers are shaped, and our prayers will be necessarily along the line of God’s will and will prevail with him. Prevailing prayer is almost an impossibility where there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.
Deep Bible study is extremely important but mere intellectual study of the Word of God is not enough; there must be a meditation upon it. The Word of God must be revolved over and over and over in the mind, with a constant looking to God by his Spirit to make that Word a living thing in the heart. The prayer that is born of meditation upon the Word of God is the prayer that soars upward most easily to God’s listening ear.
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George Müller, one of the mightiest men of prayer of the present generation, when the hour for prayer came would begin by reading and meditating upon God’s Word until out of the study of the Word a prayer began to form itself in his heart. Thus, God himself was the real author of the prayer, and God answered the prayer which he himself had inspired.
The Word of God is the instrument through which the Holy Spirit works, it is the sword of the Spirit in more senses than one, and the one who would know the work of the Holy Spirit in any direction must feed upon the Word. The one who would pray in the Spirit must meditate much upon the Word, that the Holy Spirit may have something through which he can work. The Holy Spirit works his prayers in us through the Word, and neglect of the Word makes praying in the Holy Spirit an impossibility. If we would feed the fire of our prayers with the fuel of God’s Word, all our difficulties in prayer would disappear.
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