In John 15:7-8 Jesus spoke these amazing words: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
To abide in Jesus is believe in Jesus, and his words, and to keep on believing (see John 8:31). This begins in a moment of time, with an initial life-transforming response of belief, but it continues throughout time. We listen to him and keep on listening. We believe his words and keep on believing. We cling to him and keep on clinging.
As we learn to live this life of worshipful dependence, we come to learn an amazing lesson: all along, it’s not so much that we have been abiding in Christ but this his saving and transforming and keeping words have been abiding in us. His words occupy our minds, capture our hearts, guide our actions, and prepare us for the day when we will see him face to face. This is a process. Our hearts are more and more captured by Christ over time. But the thing we must understand is that for his words to abide in us implies more than intellectual knowledge—it implies the kind of heartfelt embrace and submission that are born of Christ’s Spirit dwelling in us.
When these conditions are true of us—when we continually abide in Christ because his words are capturing our hearts—we are free to pray and ask whatever we wish in the utter confidence that he will grant it. Now, why does he give us such a carte blanche promise? Because when he is our only treasure, and our thinking and feeling and acting is shaped by his word and will, we pray according to his will. Jesus is very eager to give us the things he’s eager to give us, and the more we know him the more we are eager for what he wants to give us.
This process of seeking, savoring, and submitting to Christ is a life of prayerful dependence that glorifies God the Father and proves that we belong to Jesus. Many in this world acknowledge and even admire Jesus, but only those who believe in him call upon his name and depend upon him for everything. Only those who thus believe may ask for whatever they wish and receive it.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with asking Jesus to meet our own needs according to his will (see Phil 4:5-8, 19; 1 Pet 5:6-7). In fact, it would be a sin not to cast our cares upon him, for he is the only source of true life and provision. However, as we grow in Christ, we learn more and more to pray like Christ which means that we learn to draw from the eternal fountain and prayer for others. As Andrew Murray wrote in the little book entitled, Teach Me to Pray, “The more we abide in [Christ] and grow in His likeness, the more His priestly life will work in us, and the more our life will become what His is: one that intercedes for others” (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2002, page 6).
There is deep joy in fellowship with Christ: praying for the sight of him; praising him with words of adoration and love; calling upon him to meet our every need; asking him to use our lives for his glory and the good of others. Indeed, Jesus’ own joy in the Father is beyond description and is the heart of his prayer life (see John 17). But there is also a great joy in overflowing with this deep communion and focusing on the needs of others. There is deep joy in spending fifteen minutes, then thirty, then sixty, then more lifting others up before our Father. And there is deep joy in this because there is abundant fruit. There’s deep joy in this because in praying for others we learn to pray with Christ for others, that is, we learn to discern his will for a given situation or person and then pray according to that will. There’s deep joy in this because through the process we become more like the Master Intercessor who saved us and prays for us without ceasing (see Hebrews 7:25).
Indeed, to abide in Christ means many things but one that’s often missed is this: to abide in Christ is to intercede with Christ. May we learn the art of this kind of intercession and the deep joy that comes with it.