A promise about prayer, with conditions for abiding

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” — John 15:7 (NASB)

I’m sure every Christian loves Jesus’ promises about prayer. So many of them seem, on the surface, to say that we can ask for anything and our heavenly daddy will do it. Of course, every Christian has the experience of praying and not having it done.

Jesus never made that promise glibly. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he made it in the context of comparing his church to a grapevine. He is the vine and we are branches. Branches of grapevines must undergo periodic severe pruning. Otherwise, they will will bear lots of leaves but not much fruit. The vinedresser cuts off whatever is not necessary, leaving the rest of the branch firmly attached to the vine.

And so the promise about prayer here comes with two conditions: that we abide in the vine and that Jesus’ word abides in us. According to Strong’s concordance, “abide” means to stay in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy. Assuming, for this post, that we abide in Jesus, what does it mean for his word to abide in us?

Jesus said elsewhere, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Measuring what comes out of our mouth against the written word of God tells us what abides in us. It’s not like we have to be quoting Scripture all the time, but the words of our mouth ought to be faithful, hopeful, and loving.

If we speak words of frustration, unbelief, quarreling, gossiping, etc., those words line up with the words of the devil, not the words of Jesus. They indicate an area where the word of God abides on the pages of our Bibles, but not in us. We can’t expect all of our petitions to be granted if we fail to meet Jesus’ conditions.

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