Abiding in the Vine: A Vital Connection

Ask. Whatever we want, all we have to do is ask.

It’s what God told King Solomon (1 Kings 3:5).           

It’s what King Herod said to the beguiling daughter of Herodias (Matt. 14:6–7).

It’s also what Jesus says to us (John 15:7).

But is that all there is to getting what we want? A Maserati in the driveway, a restored marriage, a healed child? Just ask? We might want this to be true, but our experiences with unfulfilled prayer requests tell us it’s not always that easy.

As we struggle to understand why God answers some of our requests and not others, we may seek refuge in explanations that fall short of the truth. Does our heavenly Father not want us to pray for material things such as a new house or car? Perhaps we didn’t use the right words in the right order when we asked God for that promotion. Maybe we don’t deserve answers to our requests.

But those explanations don’t explain why our prayers on behalf of others remain unanswered. Well-meaning believers declare that if we have stronger faith, we would be more successful in receiving answers to prayer.

Others think God is waiting for us to jump through a series of hoops before He will consent to our requests. Some believe that if they wait long enough and work hard enough, God will grant whatever they ask.

Still others take a fatalistic approach to prayer. After all, if God is sovereign, He will do what He wants, when He wants. So why bother praying at all?

Do any of these thoughts reflect your approach to prayer? If so, you’re probably discouraged by unfulfilled requests to God. Or you may be physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted from your struggle to earn His approval. Your prayer life may even be non-existent—you’ve just plain given up.

There has to be another answer—and there is . . .

Where Do You Live?

Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Most of us love to quote the second half of this verse, the part about asking “whatever we wish.” But what about the beginning—the conditional half? “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you . . .”

If. It signals a contingency. If you and I do something, then God will do something. Before we can claim the promise, He first tells us to abide. In other words, remain—stay—dwell—live.

Where do you live? I don’t mean your street address or your city, state, or country. Where do you live spiritually and emotionally when the storms of life break over you? Where do you keep your lemonade-maker when life throws you lemons? Where is your hiding place when your stress level is off the charts?

Jesus said, “If you abide in me . . .” Before He made this conditional statement, Jesus began by declaring who He is and who we are in relation to Him:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. . . . I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1, 5).

Dependence. Attachment. Apart from the vine or trunk, the branch withers and dies.

Permanently and vitally connected to the vine, the branch receives life-giving nourishment.

To be unattached is to forego the sustenance we need to live and thrive. Concentration camp survivor and author Corrie ten Boom once described it this way: “Connected with Him in His love, I am more than conqueror; without Him I am nothing.”

Our dependence is not on ourselves. Nor is it on other people. And it is not on a mystical force. God is a person. He is alive, and He is personal. When we are vitally connected to Him, we draw life and strength, grace, and peace.

How close are you to the One who loves you enough to die for you? Salvation is the foundation for our relationship. But we need to abide if we want to cultivate an intimate, growing relationship with our Savior.

Minute-by-Minute

Several hundred years ago, Brother Lawrence wrote a book titled The Practice of the Presence of God. In it, he explained the importance of intimate abiding. It’s impossible to abide in Christ without practicing His presence on a minute-by-minute basis, whether in the bedroom or the boardroom, in the kitchen or the schoolroom. It was true then, and it is true today.

Practicing God’s presence does not mean we need to lock ourselves in a monastery for the rest of our lives. But it does mean our relationship with Him becomes our first priority.

Cultivating this friendship begins with a longing for intimacy with the Lord above all else. When our desire for status, material things, or other relationships takes priority over our relationship with God, we hinder our intimacy with Him.

Friendship with God also requires an investment of dedicated time—a combination of quantity and quality time every day. We’re careful to keep the appointments we make with our hairdressers, mechanics, and children’s teachers. Yet we often behave as if our appointments with God are expendable, often canceling them at the slightest hint of a more interesting or pressing activity.

Friendship with the Lord requires a longing to please Him that translates into action. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Love for God is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling. Love for God is a decision of the will expressed in our daily behavior.

Abiding begins with a choice—a conscious decision. It’s based on the truth that the source of strength, grace, comfort, and everything else we need for life is found in Christ.

How do we know if we are truly abiding? One effective test is to ask, “What lessons has the Lord been teaching me today?” If we must go back weeks or months to recall signs of meaningful spiritual growth, then something is wrong. But if our desire to please Him is seen in joyful obedience to the lessons He is teaching us, then we are abiding—minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day.

Effective prayer begins with abiding in Christ. Only then will His desire for us become our heart’s desire . . . and our resulting prayer life will never be the same!

 

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Ava Pennington

Ava Pennington

Ava Pennington is a writer, speaker, Bible teacher, and the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional. Ava has written for numerous magazines, including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Christianity Today’s Today’s Christian Woman. She is also published in twenty-three Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Ava is a passionate speaker and engages audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. When not writing and speaking, Ava loves playing with her Boxer puppies, Duke and Daisy.

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