“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.”
What a privilege it is to reflect on, and learn to live in, so great and gracious a promise from our Lord Jesus Christ! Who can imagine the love he lavishes upon us with these words: “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”? Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the one through whom the Father created all things, and the one who upholds all things by the word of his power (Revelation 21:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:3). And it is he who said, “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” How I pray that we will tremble before him and his words, and how I pray that we will take seriously the two conditions upon which he issues his promise.
The first condition is this: we must abide in Christ. I dealt with what it means to abide in Christ in meditations seven and eight, and therefore I will only reiterate the points here. We can only abide in Christ because he has caused us to abide in him (John 15:16,19), and once we are abiding in him, the first-fruits of the vine, as it were, are the efforts we make, by God’s grace and power (Philippians 2:12-13), to ensure that we are abiding in the vine. The visible display of the fact that, by grace, we have come to abide in Christ and treasure him above all other things is our incessant commitment to seeking him no matter what the cost or consequence.
The second condition is this: the words of Christ must abide in us. I must admit that I was a bit puzzled by the command in verse 4 that says, “Abide in me, and I in you.” I can understand Jesus commanding us to abide in him, but how, I wondered, can Jesus command us to have him abide in us? Verse 7 answers this question: the heart of what it means for Christ to abide in us is that his words abide in us. Since we play an active role in whether or not his words abide in us, it makes sense for him to command us to have him abide in us!
Now, the command for his words to abide in us implies both knowing and obeying his words. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe [i.e., obey] all that I have commanded you [i.e., all my words]. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).
So, in order for the words of Christ to abide in us we must know them and obey them, by his grace and power, and we must die to every other “word” in our lives. We must deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily and follow him by reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on, teaching, and obeying his words. His words must be our food. His words must be our life. His words must be our light day and night.
As his words abide in our hearts and minds more and more each day, we will learn to ask for things in prayer that accord with his will rather than our whims. We will learn to ask for things that align with his good desires rather than our fleshly desires. We will learn to ask for things that are designed to glorify his name rather than to gratify our earthly passions. And paradoxically, as we learn to die to ourselves and pray according to his words and will, our joy will be made complete (see v 11).
Prayer Focus: Pray that Christ will cause us to abide in the vine and continue in him. Pray that he will cause a great swelling up of love for his words in our hearts, so that we’ll strive to know them and obey them by his grace, and for his glory. Pray that we will learn how to pray in a way that is pleasing to him.