Obedience: The Path to Power in Prayer
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to
go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will
give you whatever you ask in my name.
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
The promise of the Father’s giving whatever we ask is renewed again in a connection that shows us to whom such wonderful influence is granted. ‘‘I chose you,’’ the Master says, ‘‘and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.’’ Then He adds, ‘‘Then the Father will give you [the fruit-bearing ones] whatever you ask in my name.’’ This is simply a fuller expression of what He said in John 15:7: ‘‘If you abide in me . . .’’ He described the object of this abiding as bearing ‘‘fruit’’ (v. 4), being ‘‘more fruitful’’ (v. 2), and bearing ‘‘much fruit’’ (v. 8): in this was God to be glorified and the mark of discipleship seen. So it appears that the ‘‘qualification’’ for obtaining what we ask for in prayer is to be people who bear fruit as a result of our abiding in Christ. Entire consecration to the fulfillment of our calling is the condition of effective prayer and the key to the unlimited blessings of Christ’s prayer-promises.
Some Christians question whether such a statement is at variance with the doctrine of free grace. Look at the words in 1 John 3:18, 22: ‘‘Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth; if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.’’ Also note the James text: ‘‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective’’; that is, a man of whom it can be said, ‘‘He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous’’ (1 John 3:7).
Notice the spirit of so many of the psalms with their confident appeal to the integrity and righteousness of the supplicant. In Psalm 18, David says, ‘‘The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. . . . I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness’’ (vv. 20, 23–24). (See also Psalms 7:8–9; 15:1–2; 17:3, 6; 26:1–6; 119:121, 153.) If we carefully consider such utterances in the light of the New Testament, we will find them to be in perfect harmony with the explicit teaching of the Savior’s parting words: ‘‘If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love’’ (John 15:10); ‘‘You are my friends if you do what I command’’ (John 15:14). The word is indeed meant literally: ‘‘I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit. . . . Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name’’ (John 15:16).
Let us seek to enter into the spirit of what the Savior is teaching here. There is a danger in evangelical circles of looking one-sidedly at this experience of obtaining things by prayer and faith. Another side that God’s Word puts very strongly is that obedience is the only path to blessing. We need to realize that in our relationship to God, who has created and redeemed us, our first posture ought to be that of subjection. The surrender to His supremacy, His glory, His will, His pleasure, ought to be the first and uppermost thought in our mind. The question is not how we are to obtain and enjoy His favor, for the motivation here may still be self. But rather what does God rightfully claim of us—and is infinitely and unspeakably worthy of: that His glory and pleasure should be our one object. Service and obedience were the thoughts uppermost in the mind of the Son when He dwelt on earth. Service and obedience must also be the chief objects of our desire and aim.
Notice what a prominent place the Master gives obedience, not only in this fifteenth chapter in connection with abiding but also in the fourteenth, where He speaks of the indwelling of the triune God. Verse 15 says, ‘‘If you love me, you will obey what I command . . . and he [the Father] will give you another Counselor’’ (John 14:15–16). Then verse 21: ‘‘Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me’’ (John 14:21); and he shall have the special love of my Father resting on him, and the special manifestation of myself. Then verse 23 gives one of the highest of all the exceedingly great and precious promises: ‘‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’’ (John 14:23). Could words put it more clearly that obedience is the way to the indwelling of the Spirit, to His revealing the Son within us, and to His preparing us to be the abode of the Father?
The indwelling of the triune God is the heritage of those who obey Him. Obedience and faith are but two aspects of one act—surrender to God and His will. As faith is strengthened for obedience, it is in turn strengthened by it. Faith is made perfect by works. Too often our efforts to believe have been unavailing because we have not taken up the only position in which strong faith is legitimate or possible—that of entire surrender to the honor and the will of God. The man who is entirely consecrated to God and His will will find power to claim everything God has promised to him.
The application of this in prayer is very simple but also very serious: ‘‘I chose you,’’ the Master says, ‘‘and appointed you to go and bear fruit’’ (John 15:16), much fruit (vv. 5, 8); ‘‘fruit that will last’’ (v. 16) that your life might be one of abiding fruit and abiding fruitfulness. ‘‘Then,’’ as fruitful branches abiding in me, ‘‘the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name’’ (v. 16). How often we have prayed for grace to bear fruit and then wondered when the answer did not come. It was because we were reversing the Master’s order. We wanted to have the comfort and the joy and the strength first that we might do the work easily without any difficulty or self-sacrifice. Only He wanted us in faith—without asking whether we felt weak or strong, whether the work was hard or easy—to simply do what He said. The path of fruit-bearing would have led us to the place and the power of prevailing prayer.
Obedience is the only path that leads to the glory of God. Not obedience instead of faith or obedience to supply the shortcomings of faith. Faith’s obedience gives access to all the blessings God has for us. The baptism of the Spirit (John 14:16), the manifestation of the Son (14:21), the indwelling of the Father (14:23), the abiding in Christ’s love (15:10), the privilege of His holy friendship (15:14), and the power of all-prevailing prayer (15:16)—all await the obedient.
What have we learned? We know now why we have not had power to prevail in prayer. Our life has not been as it should be. Simple, sincere obedience and abiding fruitfulness have not been its identifying marks. But with our whole heart we approve of the divine appointment: Those to whom God gives such influence in the rule of the world that at their request He will do what otherwise would not have been done are those who have learned obedience, those whose loyalty and submission to authority is above reproof. Our soul approves of the law that says obedience and fruit bearing are the path to effective prayer. With shame we acknowledge how little our lives have borne this mark.
Let us yield ourselves to accept and fulfill the appointment the Savior gives. Let us study His relationship to us as Master. With each new day may we no longer think first of comfort or joy or even blessing. Let our first thought be that we belong to the Master. Every moment and in every action we must behave as His property, as those who only seek to know and do His will. A servant, a slave of Jesus Christ—let this be the spirit that motivates me. If He says, ‘‘I no longer call you servants . . . instead I have called you friends’’ (John 15:15), let us accept the place of friends. ‘‘You are my friends if you do what I command’’ (v. 14).
The one thing He commands us as His branches is to bear fruit. We are to live to bless others, to testify of the life and the love there is in Jesus. In faith and obedience let us give our whole life to that which Jesus chose us for and appointed us —bearing fruit. As we think of His electing us to this and take up our appointment as coming from Him who always gives strength for all He commands, we will grow strong in the confidence that a life of abounding and abiding fruit bearing is within our reach. It is for the man who in obedience to Christ proves that he is doing what his Lord wills that the Father will do whatever he asks. ‘‘We have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him’’ (1 John 3:22).
Blessed Master, teach me to understand fully that it is only through the will of God, accepted and acted out in obedience to His commands, that we obtain power in prayer. Teach me that the path to bearing fruit is deeper growth of the branch into the Vine, and that by it we attain to that perfect oneness with you in which we may ask whatever we will.
Lord, reveal to us how together with the hosts of heaven and all the men of faith who have gone before us we may glorify you on this earth. Obedience to God is our highest privilege, because it gives access to oneness with Him and His perfect will. Reveal to us how in keeping your commandments and bearing fruit according to your will, our spiritual nature will grow up to the full stature of the perfect man, with power to ask and to receive whatever we desire.
Lord Jesus, make real to us your purpose and your power to make these promises the daily experience of all who utterly yield themselves to you. Amen.