The Secret Power in Prayer
C. H. Spurgeon
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BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”--John15:7
Beloved, the gifts of grace are not immediately enjoyed by new believers. Coming to Christ, we are saved by a true union with him; but it is by remaining in that union that we further receive the purity, the joy, the power, and the blessedness, which are stored up in him for his people. Notice how our Lord states this when he speaks to the believing Jews in the eighth chapter of this gospel, at the thirty-first and thirty-second verses, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." We do not know all the truth at once: we learn it by remaining in Jesus. Perseverance in grace is an educational process by which we fully learn the truth. The emancipating power of that truth is also gradually perceived and enjoyed. “The truth will set you free.” One chain after another breaks, and we are truly set free. You that are new to the Christian life may be encouraged to know that there is still something better for you: you have not yet received the full reward for your faith. You will have joyful views of heavenly things as you climb the hill of spiritual experience. As you remain in Christ you will have firmer confidence, richer joy, greater stability, more communion with Jesus, and greater delight in the Lord your God. Infancy is troubled with many evils and problems from which manhood is exempt: it is the same in the spiritual as in the natural world.
There are these degrees of attainment among believers, and the Savior here motivates us to reach a high position by mentioning a certain privilege which is not for everyone who says that they are in Christ, but for only those who remain in him. Every believer must remain in Christ, but many have hardly earned the name yet. Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” You have to live with Christ to know him, and the longer you live with him the more will you admire and adore him; yes, and the more will you receive from him, grace for grace. Truly, for the person who is only a month old in grace, Christ is most blessed; but these babes can hardly tell what a precious Jesus he is to those who have known him for nearly half a century! To them Jesus grows sweeter and dearer, fairer and lovelier, day by day. Not that he improves in himself, for he is perfect; but that as we increase in our knowledge of him, we appreciate more thoroughly his unparalleled majesty and excellence. How vividly do his old acquaintances exclaim, “He is altogether lovely!” Oh, that we may continue to grow in knowledge of him in all things who is our master, so that we may treasure him more and more!
I ask for your serious attention to our text, begging you to consider with me three questions.
1. First, what is this special blessing? “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
2. Secondly, how is this special blessing obtained? “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.”
3. Then, thirdly, why is it obtained in this way? Why is it that by remaining in Christ, and having his words remain in us, that we get this liberty and power in prayer?
Oh, that the anointing of the Holy Spirit which remains on us may now make this subject very profitable to us!
I. WHAT IS THIS SPECIAL BLESSING?
Let us read the verse again. Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Observe that our Lord has been warning us that, without him, we can do nothing, and, therefore, we might naturally have expected that he would now show us how we can do all spiritual acts. But the text does not run as we would have expected it to run. The Lord Jesus does not say, “Without me you can do nothing, but, if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you will do all spiritual and gracious things.” He doesn’t speak of what they themselves would be enabled to do, but of what would be given to them: “it will be given you.” He does not say, “Sufficient strength will be given to you for all those holy deeds of which you are incapable of apart from me.” That would have been true, and it is the truth which we expected here; but our most wise Lord goes well beyond what our hearts might have expected and says something even better. He does not say, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you will do spiritual things”; but rather, “ask whatever you wish.” By prayer you will be enabled to do spiritual acts; but before all attempts to do them, “ask whatever you wish.” The choice privilege given here is a promise of powerful and successful prayers. Power in prayer is very much the gauge of our spiritual condition; and when that is highly evident in our lives, then we are blessed in every area of our lives.
One of the first results, then, of our remaining in Christ will be that we will pray to Him, “asking him whatever we wish.”
If others neither seek, nor knock, nor ask, yet we will. Those who stay away from Jesus do not pray. Those who neglect to have communion with Christ feel as if they are unable to pray; but Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish.” Prayer is spontaneous to those who remain in Jesus. Prayer is the natural outflow of a soul in communion with Jesus. Just as the leaf and the fruit will come out of the branch, without any conscious effort on the part of the branch, but simply because of its living union with the stem, so prayer buds, and blossoms, and fruits come out of souls remaining in Jesus. Just like stars shine, so do those who remain in Christ pray. It is their purpose and their second nature. They do not say to themselves, “Now it is the time for us to do our duty and pray.” No, they pray just like men eat, namely, when the desire comes upon them. They don’t cry out like those in bondage, saying, “I should be in prayer right now, but I do not feel like it. What a burden it is!” Rather they are happy and rejoice to go to the mercy-seat. Hearts that remain in Christ send forth supplications just like fires send out flames and sparks. Souls that remain in Jesus begin the day with prayer; prayer surrounds them like an atmosphere all day long; at night they fall asleep praying. I have known them to even dream a prayer, and, at any rate, they are joyfully able to say, “When I awake, I am still with you.” Habitual asking comes from remaining in Christ. You will not need to be urged to prayer when you remain in Jesus: he says, “Ask whatever you wish;” and depend on it, you will.
Another result of our remaining in Christ will be that we will most powerfully feel the necessity of prayer. Our great need of prayer will be clearly seen.
Do I hear you say, “I thought we have attained everything when we remain in Christ and his words remain in us?” Far from being satisfied with ourselves; it is then that we feel more than ever that we must ask for more grace. He that knows Christ best, knows his own needs best. He that is most conscious of life in Christ, is also most convinced of his own death apart from Christ. He who most clearly discerns the perfect character of Jesus, will be most urgent in prayer for grace to grow like him. The more I seek to remain in my Lord, the more I desire to obtain from him, since I know that all that is in him is put there for the purpose that I may receive it. The Bible says, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” [John 1:16]. It is in direct proportion as we are linked to Christ’s fullness that we feel the necessity of drawing from it by constant prayer.
Nobody needs to prove the doctrine of prayer to someone who remains in Christ, for we enjoy the personal experience of prayer itself. Prayer is now as much a necessity to our spiritual life as breath is to our natural life: we cannot live without asking favors from the Lord. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish”: and you will not want to stop asking. He has said, “Seek my face,” and your heart will answer, “Lord, I will seek your face.”
We note next, that the fruit of our remaining in Christ is not only the exercise of prayer, and a sense of the necessity of prayer, but it also includes liberty in prayer: “ask whatever you wish.”
Haven’t you been on your knees at times without any power to pray? Haven’t you felt that you could not plead with God as you desired? You wanted to pray, but the waters were frozen, and would not flow. Sadly, you said, “I can’t pray.” The will was present, but not the freedom to present that will in prayer.
Dear friends, do you desire freedom in prayer, so that you may speak with God as a man speaks with his friend? Then here is the way to do it: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish.” I don’t mean that you will gain freedom as to mere eloquence of speech, for that is a very inferior gift. Eloquence in prayer is a questionable endowment, especially when it does not include the weight of thought and depth of feeling. Some Christians pray long prayers; but true prayer is measured by weight, and not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine discourse of great length. Whoever dwells with God in Christ Jesus, they are the ones most active in prayer. They come boldly because they remain at the throne. They see the golden scepter stretched out, and hears the King saying, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” It is the person who remains in conscious union with their Lord who has the greatest freedom in prayer. It is easy for them to often come to Christ, for they are in Christ, and remain in him. Don’t attempt to exercise this holy freedom by excitement, or presumption: there is only one way of really obtaining it, and here it is--“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish” Only by this way will you be enabled to open your mouth wide, so that God may fill it. Thus you will have power with God.
This is not all: those that remain in Christ have the privilege of successful prayer. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
You can’t get it on your own, but it will be given to you. You long to bear fruit: ask, and it will be given you. Look at the vine branch. It simply remains in the vine, and by remaining in the vine the fruit comes from it; it is given to it. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the purpose of your life, its one object and aim, is to bear fruit to the glory of the Father: to gain this end you must remain in Christ, as the branch remains in the vine. This is the method by which your prayer for fruitfulness will become successful, “it will be given you.” You will have wonderful power with God in prayer, insomuch that before you pray he will answer, and while you are still speaking he will hear. “The desire of the righteous will be granted.” “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” [Psalm 37:4]. There is great latitude in our text, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The Lord gives carte blanche to those who remain in him. He puts into their hand a signed check, and permits them to fill in any amount they wish.
Does the text mean what it says? I never knew my Lord to say anything he did not mean. I am sure that he may sometimes mean more than we understand him to say, but he never means less. Mind you, he does not say to all men and women, “I will give you whatever you ask.” Oh no, that would be a cruel kindness: but he speaks to his disciples, and says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” It is to a certain class of men and women who have already received abundant grace at his hands--it is to them that he gives this marvelous power of prayer. O my dear friends, if I may earnestly desire one thing above every other, it is this; that I may be able to ask what I wish of the Lord, and have it given to me. The minister who is diligent in prayer is the man that will find success in his preaching, for he should be able to prevail with man for God when he has already prevailed with God for men. This is also true for the man facing difficulties in any line of business; for what can baffle him when he can take everything to God in prayer? This kind of man or woman in a church, is worth ten thousand of us common people. In these we find the nobility of the skies. In these are the men and women in whom is fulfilled God’s purpose concerning mankind, whom he made to have dominion over his creation. The stamp of sovereignty is on the foreheads of these men and women: they shape the history of the nations, they guide the current of events through their power in prayer with the Almighty God. We see Jesus with all things put under him by the divine purpose, and as we rise into that image, we too are clothed with dominion, and are made kings and priests unto God. See Elijah, with the keys of the rain swinging at his side: he shuts or opens the windows of heaven! There are such men and women still alive today. Aspire to be such men and women, I beg you, that in you, the text may be fulfilled. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Additionally, the text seems to imply that, if we reach this point of freedom in prayer, this gift will be continual: “Ask,” you will always ask; you will never stop asking, but you will ask successfully, for “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Here we have the gift of continual prayer.
This prevailing power in prayer is not just for a week of prayer, nor for a month of prayer, nor just for a few special occasions; but you will possess this power with God as long as you remain in Christ, and his words remain in you--read the Bible, memorize Scripture, love the Word, love Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength! God will put his omnipotence at your disposal: The entire Trinity will be available to fulfill the desires which the Holy Spirit has planted in you. I wish I could make this jewel glitter before the eyes of all the saints till they cried out, “Oh that we had such power in prayer!” This power in prayer is like the sword of Goliath: may every David say, “There is none like it; give it me.”
This weapon of prevailing prayer defeats the enemy, and, at the same time, enriches its possessor with all the wealth of God. How can anyone lack anything to whom the Lord has said, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”? Oh, come, let us seek this blessing. Listen, and learn the way. Follow me, while by the light of the text I point out the path. May the Lord lead us in it by his Holy Spirit!
II. How does one obtain the privilege of having powerful prayers? The answer is, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Here are the two feet by which we climb to power with God in prayer.
Beloved, the first part of our text tells us that we are to remain in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is taken for granted that we are already in him. Can it be taken for granted in your case too, dear listener? If so, you are to remain where you are. As believers we are to remain tenaciously clinging to Jesus, lovingly knit to Jesus.
We are to remain in him, by always trusting him, and him only, with the same simple faith which joined us to him in the beginning.
We must never admit any other thing or person into our heart’s confidence as our hope of salvation, but rest alone in Jesus as we received him at the first. His divinity, his manhood, his life, his death, his resurrection, his glory at the right hand of the Father--in a word, Jesus himself must be our heart’s sole reliance. This is absolutely essential. A temporary faith will not save: a continuing faith is needed.
But remaining in the Lord Jesus does not only mean trusting in him; it includes our yielding ourselves up to him to receive his life, and to let that life work out its results in us.
We remain in him when we live by him, for him, and to him. We feel that all our separate life has gone: for “we have died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” [Colossians 3:3] We are nothing if we do not remain in Jesus; we would be withered branches, and fit only to be thrown into the fire. We have no reason for existence except that which we find in Christ; and what a marvelous reason that is! The vine needs the branch as truly as the branch needs the vine. No vine ever bore any fruit except on its branches. Truly it produces all the branches, and so produces all the fruit; but yet it is by the branch that the vine displays its fruitfulness. Thus believers that remain in Christ are necessary to the fulfillment of their Lord’s design. What a wonderful statement, that the saints are also essential to their Savior! The church is his body; His fullness fills everyone. I want you to recognize this, so that you may see your blessed responsibility, your practical obligation to produce fruit, that the Lord Jesus may be glorified in you. Remain in him. Never cease from being dedicated to his honor and glory. Never dream of being your own master. Don’t be the servant of men, but remain in Christ. Let Jesus be the object, as well as the source, of your existence. Oh, if you can so dedicate and consecrate yourselves that you achieve perpetual communion with your Lord, then you will soon realize a joy, a delight, a power in prayer, such as you never knew before.
There are times when we are conscious that we are in Christ, and we know and sense our fellowship with him; and oh, the joy and the peace which we drink from this cup! Let us remain there. “Remain in me,” says Jesus. You are not to come and go, but to remain. Let that blessed sinking of yourself into his life, the spending of all your powers for Jesus, and the firm faith of your union with him continually remain in you. Oh, that we might attain to this by the Holy Spirit!
As if to help us to understand this, our gracious Lord has given us a delightful parable. Let us look through this discourse of the vine and its branches. Jesus says, “…every branch in me that bears…fruit [I will] prune so that it will be even more fruitful” [John 15:2]. Be careful that you remain in Christ when you are being pruned. “Oh,” someone says, “I thought I was a Christian; but, sadly! I now have more troubles than ever before: men ridicule me, the devil tempts me, and my business affairs go wrong.” Brother, if you are to have power in prayer you must be careful that you remain in Christ when the sharp pruning knife is cutting everything away. Endure the trial, and never dream of giving up your faith because of it. Say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” [Job 13:15] Your Lord warned you when you first came into the vine that you would have to be pruned and cut closely; and if you are now feeling the pruning process, you must not think that some strange thing has happened to you. Don’t rebel because of anything you may have to suffer from the dear hand of your heavenly Father, who is the cultivator of the vineyard. No, but cling to Jesus all the more closely. Say to him, “Cut, Lord, cut to the quick if you wish; for I will still cling to you. To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” Yes, cling to Jesus when the pruning knife is in his hand, and then “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Also be careful that when the pruning operation has been carried out, that you still cleave to your Lord.
Notice the third and fourth verse: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” [John 15:3]. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” [John 15:4]. Remain after the cleansing where you were before the cleansing. When you are sanctified, remain where you were when you were first justified. When you see the work of the Spirit increasing in you, don’t let the devil tempt you to boast that now you are somebody, and don’t need to come to Jesus as a poor sinner, and rest alone in his precious blood for salvation. Still remain in Jesus. As you stayed in him when the knife cut you, stay in him now that the tender grapes begin to form. Don’t say to yourself, “What a fruitful branch I am! How greatly I adorn the vine! Now I am full of energy and vitality!” My friend, you are nothing and nobody. Only as you remain in Christ are you one bit better than the scrap wood which is burned in the fire. “But don’t we make progress?” Yes, we grow, but we remain: we never go an inch further, we remain in him; or, if not, we will be cut off and will become withered. Our only hope lies in Jesus during our best times as well as during our worst. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I have remained in you” [John 15:3-4].
We must remain in Christ in order to bear fruit.
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” We cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Christ. Someone cries out, “Great! Then, I have something to do.” Certainly you have, but not apart from Jesus. The branch has to bear fruit; but if the branch thinks that it is going to produce a cluster, or even a single grape, all by itself, it is utterly mistaken. The fruit of the branch must come out of the stem. Your work for Christ must be Christ’s work in you, or else it will be good for nothing. I pray that you see to this. Your Sunday-school teaching, your preaching, or whatever you do, must be done in Christ Jesus. You can not win souls by your natural talent, nor can you save men and women by your own plans. Beware of homemade schemes. Do for Jesus what Jesus commands you to do. Remember that our work for Christ, as we call it, must be Christ’s work first, if it is to be accepted by him. Remain in him if you ever wish to bear fruit.
Yes, remain in him as to your very life.
Don’t say, “I have been a Christian man now for twenty or thirty years, I can do without continued dependence upon Christ.” No, you cannot do anything without him, even if you were as old as Methuselah. Your very being as a Christian depends on your still clinging, still trusting, still depending; and this he must give you, for it all comes from him, and him alone.
To sum it all up, if you want that splendid power in prayer of which I just now spoke, you must remain in a loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, remaining union with the Lord Jesus Christ; and if you attain that by divine grace, then you may ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
But there is a second qualification mentioned in the text, and you must not forget it-- “…and my words remain in you...”
How important, then, are Christ’s words! He said in the fourth verse, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” and now as a parallel to this it is, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” What? Are Christ’s words and his person identical--one and the same? Yes, practically speaking. Some people talk about Christ being their Master, but they don’t care what his word declares about doctrines. So long as their hearts are right towards his person they claim freedom of thought. Yes, but this is a mere ploy. We cannot separate Christ from the Word; for, in the first place, he is the Word; and, in the next place, how dare we call him Master and Lord and do not obey his commands, and reject the truth which he teaches? We must obey his commands or he will not accept us as disciples. Especially that command of love which is the essence of all his words. We must love God and our brothers and sisters; yes, we must take pleasure in loving everyone, and seek their good. Anger and hatred must not be a part of us. We must walk even as he walked. If Christ’s words don’t remain in you, both as to belief and practice, then you are not in Christ. Christ and his gospel and his commands are one. If you will not have Christ and his words, neither will he have you nor your words; and you will ask in vain, you will in time give up asking, you will become like a withered branch. Beloved, I am persuaded of better things in your case, and things that accompany salvation, that is why I speak as I do.
Oh for grace to pass through these two gates, these two golden doors! “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Push through the two doors, and enter into this spacious room--“Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
III. Lastly this morning, a question, WHY IS IT THAT BY REMAINING IN CHRIST, AND HAVING HIS WORDS REMAIN IN US, THAT WE GET THIS LIBERTY AND POWER IN PRAYER?
Why is this extraordinary power of prayer given to those who remain in
Christ? I pray that what I have to say may encourage you to make the glorious
attempt to win this pearl of great price!
1. I answer, first, we get this liberty and power in prayer because of the fullness of Christ.
You can ask whatever you wish, when you remain in Christ, because whatever you may require already resides in him. Do you desire the grace of the Spirit? Go to your Lord’s anointing by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Do you seek holiness? Go to his example. Do you desire pardon of sin? Look to his blood. Do you need mortification of sin? Look to his crucifixion. Do you need to be buried to the world? Go to his tomb. Do you want to feel the fullness of a heavenly life? Behold his resurrection. Would you rise above the world? Note his ascension. Would you contemplate heavenly things? Remember he sits at the right hand of God, and know that God has “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.”
It is clear why the branch gets all that it wishes while it abides in the stem, since all it could ever wish is already in the stem, and is placed there for the sake of the branch. What does the branch want more than the stem can give it? If it did want more it could not get it; for it has no other means of living but by sucking its life out of the stem. O my precious Lord, if I want anything which is not in you, then I will always desire to be without it. I desire to be denied a wish which wanders outside of you. But if everything I need and wish for is already in you, waiting to be given to me, why should I go elsewhere? You are my everything; where else should I look? Beloved, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ” [Colossians 1:19], and the good pleasure of the Father is our good pleasure also: we are glad to draw everything from Jesus. We feel sure that we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us, because he has it ready for us.
2. The next reason why we get this liberty and power in prayer is because of the richness of the Word of God.
Catch this thought, “If my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The best praying Christian is the one who knows and believes in the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to him, and saying to him, “My Lord, do as you have said that you would do.” Prayer is the promise utilized. A prayer which is not based on a promise has no true foundation. You that have Christ’s words remaining in you are equipped with those things which the Lord pays close attention too. If the Word of God remains in you, you are the person that can pray, because you commune with the great God of the universe using his own words, and thus overcome omnipotence with omnipotence. You put your finger down on the very lines, and say, “Father, do as you have said you would.” This is the best praying in all the world. O beloved, be filled with God’s Word. Study what Jesus has said, what the Holy Spirit has had recorded in this divinely inspired Book, and in proportion as you feed on the Word, and are filled with the Word, and retain the Word in your faith, and obey the Word in your life--in that same proportion you will be a master in the art of prayer. You have acquired skill as a wrestler with the covenant angel in proportion as you can plead the promises of your faithful God. Be well instructed in the doctrines of grace, and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, that you may know how to prevail at the throne of grace. Remaining in Christ, and his words remaining in you, are like the right hand and the left hand of Moses, which were held up in prayer, so that the Amalekites were destroyed, Israel was delivered, and God was glorified.
But, let us go a little further: you still may say you do not quite see why a person who remains in Christ, and in whom Christ’s words remain, should be allowed to ask whatever they wish, and have it given to them.
3. I answer you again: we get this liberty and power in prayer, because in such a man as that there is a abundance of grace which causes him to have a renewed will, which is according to the will of God.
Suppose a man of God is in prayer, and he desires a certain thing, yet he remembers that he is nothing but a babe in the presence of his all-wise Father, and so he submits his will, and asks the Father what he should ask for. Even though God commands him to ask whatever he wishes, he shrinks back and cries out, “My Lord, here is a request which I am not quite sure about. As far as I can tell, it is a desirable thing, and I wish to have it; but, Lord, I am not fit to judge for myself, and therefore I pray that you do not give me what I wish, but what you will.”
Dear friends, don’t you see that, when we are in such a condition as this, our will is God’s will? Deep down in our hearts we wish for only that which the Lord himself wills; and what is this, that all we have to do is to ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us? It is safe for God to say to the holy Christian, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” The heavenly instincts of that man leads him in the right direction; the grace that is within his soul suppresses all greedy lusts and evil desires, and his will is the actual shadow of God’s will. The spiritual life is the master within him, and so his aspirations are holy, heavenly, and Godlike. He has been made a partaker of the divine nature; and as a son is like his father, so now in desire and will he is one with his God. As the echo answers to the voice, so does the renewed heart echo the mind of the Lord. Our desires are reflections of the divine will: ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
We can clearly see that the holy God cannot say to an unbeliever, “I will give you whatever you wish for.” What would he ask for? He would ask for another drink, or permission to enjoy himself in evil lust. It would be very unsafe to trust the wishes of most unsaved men and women. But when the Lord has taken a person, and has made them a new creation, and has formed them in the image of his dear Son, then he can trust them! Behold, our Father in heaven treats us as he treats his Firstborn. Jesus could say, “I know that you always hear me” and the Lord is teaching us the very same assurance. We can say with confidence, “My God will hear me.”
Don’t your mouths water for this privilege of prevailing prayer? Don’t your hearts long to get at this? It is through holiness, it is through union with Christ, it is by permanently remaining in him, and obediently holding firm to his truth, that you are to come to this privilege. It is the only safe and true way. Once we truly walk in that way, we will then find that it is a most sure and effectual way of gaining substantial power in prayer.
4. I am not quite done yet. A man or woman we get this liberty and power in prayer when their faith is strong; and this is the case with those who remain in Jesus.
It is faith that prevails in prayer. The real eloquence of prayer is a believing desire. “Everything is possible for him who believes” [Mark 9:23]. A man remaining in Christ with Christ’s words remaining in him, is eminently a believer, and consequently eminently successful in prayer. He surely has strong faith, for his faith has brought him into vital contact with Christ, and he is therefore at the source of every blessing, and may drink as much as he wants at the well itself.
5. Such a person, once more, will also possess the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
If we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, then the Holy Spirit has come and taken up his residence in us; and what better help in prayer can we have? Isn’t it a wonderful thing that the Holy Spirit himself makes intercession for the saints in accordance with the will of God? He “himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” [Romans 8:26]. “Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:11]. The Spirit of God knows the mind of God, and he works in us to will what God wills, so that a believing man’s prayer is God’s purpose reflected in the soul just like in a mirror. The eternal decrees of God project their shadows over the hearts of godly men and women in the form of prayer. What God intends to do he tells to his servants by inclining them to ask him to do what he himself is resolved to do. God says, “I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it,” but then he adds, “I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them” [Ezekiel 36:37].” Beloved, how clear it is, that if we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, we may ask whatever we wish! For we will only ask what the Spirit of God moves us to ask; and it would be impossible that God the Holy Spirit and God the Father would ever be in opposition to one another. What the one prompts us to ask, the other has assuredly determined to bestow.
I just said something just now to which I must return for a single moment. Beloved, don’t you know that when we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, the Father looks upon us with the same eye with which he looks upon his dear Son? Christ is the vine, and the vine includes the branches. The branches are a part of the vine. God, therefore, looks on us as part of Christ--members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Such is the Father’s love to Jesus that he denies him nothing. He was obedient to death, even the death of the cross; therefore his Father loves him as the God-man Mediator, and he will grant him all his petitions. And is it true, that when you and I are in real union with Christ, the Lord God looks on us in the same way as he looks on Jesus, and says to us, “I will deny you nothing; you will ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you”? This is how I understand our text.
I call your attention to the fact that in that fifteenth chapter, the ninth verse, which I did not read this morning, it says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” The same love which God gives to his Son, the Son gives to us; and therefore we dwell in the love of the Father and of the Son. How can our prayers be rejected? Will not infinite love have respect for our petitions?
O dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if your prayers are not quickly answered at the throne, suspect that there is some sin that hinders them: your Father’s love sees a necessity for disciplining you in this way. If you don’t remain in Christ, how can you hope to pray successfully? If you pick and choose his words to believe, and doubt this or that verse, how can you hope to be successful at the throne? If you are willfully disobedient to any one of his words, won’t this account for failure in prayer? But remain in Christ and hold on firmly to his words, and be a totally committed disciple, then he will hear your prayers. Sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing his words, you may lift up your eyes to his dear face, and say, “My Lord, hear me now”; and he will graciously answer you: he will say to you, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Oh for power at the mercy-seat of God!
Beloved friends, don’t listen to this sermon, and then go away and forget it. Try to reach this place of unlimited influence with God. What a church we would be, if you were all mighty in prayer! Dear children of God, do you want to be half starved? Beloved brothers and sisters, do you desire to be poor, little, puny, babbling children, who will never grow up into men and women? I pray that you aspire to be strong in the Lord, and to enjoy this exceptional privilege. What an army we would be if we all had this power with God in prayer! It is within your reach, you children of God! Only remain in Christ, and let his words remain in you, and then this special privilege will be yours. These are not tiresome duties, but they are in themselves a joy. Do them with your whole heart, and then you will get this added to you, that you will ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
Sadly, for some in this congregation my text says nothing at all; for some of you are not even in Christ, and therefore you cannot remain in him. O people, what will I say to you? You seem to me to be missing the very opportunity for heaven. Even if there were no hell to come after this life, it is hell enough not to know Christ now, not to know what it is to prevail with God in prayer, not to know the choice privilege of remaining in him, and his words remaining in you.
Your first priority right now is that you believe in Jesus Christ in order to save your souls, yielding your souls to his cleansing, your lives to his commands and authority, God has sent him into the world as a Savior, accept him. Receive him as your Teacher; yield yourself up to him as your Master. May his gracious Spirit come and do this work upon you now; and then, after this, but not before, you may aspire to this honor. First of all--“You must be born again.” I cannot say to you as you are now, “Grow,” because you will only grow into a bigger sinner.
No matter how much you may grow and develop, you will only grow and develop what is in you: and that is, you will become more a child of the devil and thereby receive more and more the wrath of God. You must become a new creation in Christ: there must be an absolute change, a reversal of all that you are, thus making you a new creature in Christ Jesus; and then you may aspire to remain in Christ, and let his words remain in you, and the resulting power with God in prayer will be yours.
Gracious Lord, help us this morning. Poor creatures that we are, we can only
lie at your feet. Please come, and lift us up to yourself, for your mercy’s
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