Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day Thirty - Obedience, Prayer, and the Fruit of the Vine


“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.”
John 15:9-10

For eleven days we reflected on the meaning of John 15:7-8, and then for the past nine days we have reflected on the meaning of John 15:9-10. Today I want to explore the link between these four verses, showing that obedience is a necessary element of effective prayer and that answered prayer is the fruit of the vine. Let’s begin by looking at all four verses in context: 

“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. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.” 

First, let me remind you how I come to the conclusion that answered prayer is the fruit of the vine. In the original language of the New Testament, the word for “it will be done” in verse seven and the word for “so prove” in verse eight are the same word. The word literally means “to become,” and thus these verses could read like this: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will become for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so will become [i.e., show yourselves to be] my disciples.” By linking answered prayer to the fruit that proves we are his disciples, Jesus teaches that answered prayer is the fruit of the vine. (See Day Fifteen for a more detailed treatment of this argument.) 

Now, let’s look at the connection between obedience and prayer. One of the conditions Jesus gave for answered prayer is that we abide in him, or as he put it in verse 9, that we abide in his love. Then, he taught us that to obey his commandments is to abide in his love. Therefore, if we don’t obey his commandments we will not abide in his love; if we do not abide in his love he has made no promise to answer our prayers; and if he does not answer our prayers we will not bear the fruit of the vine. Indeed, obedience, prayer, and the fruit of the vine are inseparably linked to one another in John 15:7-10. 

In a book entitled The Necessity of Prayer, E. M. Bounds wrote the following: “‘The Christian’s trade,’ says Luther, ‘is prayer.’ But the Christian has another trade to learn before he proceeds to learn the secrets of the trade of prayer. He must learn well the trade of perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Obedience follows love, and prayer follows obedience. The business of real observance of God’s commandments inseparably accompanies the business of real praying” (The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, Prince Press, 2000: 56).

Prayer Focus: Pray that God will teach us well the “trade of perfect obedience” that we may learn the “secrets of the trade of prayer.” For if in this way we learn the “secrets of the trade of prayer,” we will bear much fruit to the glory of God the Father.

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