Whatever You Wish
October 4, 2009
Blackaby’s words of wisdom for today are entitled, “Long Enough on the Mountain” In Deuteronomy 1:6 the Bible says, “The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough.”
If God allowed us to live on the “mountaintop,” we would not experience trials, but neither would we achieve any victories. The Israelites had gathered at the foot of Mount Horeb while God spoke to them and gave them His law. It was a breathtaking experience! Fire and smoke covered that awesome mountain; lightning flashed, and loud trumpet sounds pierced the air in a deafening crescendo! The ground at the foot of the mountain shook, and the people trembled in fear (Exod. 19:16–25).
As important as it was for God's people to have this inspiring encounter with Him, their Lord had not rescued them from Egypt in order for them to settle around a mountain in the wilderness. God delivered them so that they could conquer the Promised Land. God wanted to demonstrate His power to the Israelites so that they would trust Him in their conquest of Canaan. Finally, God announced that they had been long enough at the mountain; it was time to go to battle.
The mountain is an enticing place to set up camp. Peter, James, and John were prepared to reside on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but their Lord knew that a demon-possessed boy needed their assistance down below (Matt. 17:4, 14–18). At times God will graciously provide you a mountaintop experience. These times come in many settings: during your time alone with Him, at a Christian conference, by reading a Christian book, or at a prayer meeting. You may wish you could spend the rest of your life basking in the glow of your encounter with God. But remember, these mountaintop encounters are God's way of preparing you for the battles that await you.
Oswald Chambers had a lot to say about mountaintop experiences this last while. His October 1 devotional in “My Utmost For His Highest” describes the mountaintop as the place of exultation. Listen to what he says, “ We have all experienced times of exultation on the mountain, when we have seen things fro God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain … It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may go down and lift up the demon-possessed in the valley. We are not made for the mountains … those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration … The mountaintop is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something ….The moments on the mountaintop are rare moments … but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God …. When you were on the mountaintop you could believe anything, but what about when you are faced with the facts of the valley?” Today we’re going to look at what God wishes for us in the valley.
Our Scripture today is John 15:7 If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. The verse has two halves, a condition and a result. The condition — the if clause — is, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you . . . " The result — the then clause — "then ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
When we studied the book of John, we talked about meaning of Jesus' words abiding in us. If we are to have consistent answers to prayer, the words of Jesus must abide in us. That is, as we see in verses 4 and 5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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.
We receive and believe and remember and meditate on the truths that Jesus spoke and is speaking now as he abides in us.
Today I want to focus on the result clause in verse 7—"ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." If the words of Jesus abide in us, then the result will be that you pray with power and effectiveness.
There are four truths about prayer that come from this verse:
1. Prayer is for fruit-bearing.
God designed prayer to give his disciples the joy of bearing fruit while God himself gets the glory. We can see this in the connection between verses 7 and 8 and then in verse 16.
"By This Is My Father Glorified . . . "
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. And verse 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
In John's way of writing the phrase "by this" at the beginning of verse 8 refers to verse 7 and forward to the rest of verse 8. "By this is my Father glorified" — that is, by your asking him for things and his giving them to you. He gets glory as the one who is rich and good enough to answer prayer. But also . . . "By this my Father is glorified" when you bear much fruit. God gets glory when we bear fruit. We have prayed and God has answered. Therefore the primary point of prayer is fruit-bearing.
This is confirmed explicitly in verse 16. Jesus says to his disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he may give to you."
The logical connection between the two parts of this verse are tremendously important. Jesus says that he chose and appointed his disciples that they should go and bear fruit that remains . . . "that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you." Shortened down it says, "I have given you a fruit-bearing mission in order that your prayers might be answered!" This only makes sense if prayer is for fruit-bearing. Remember what verse 16 says: your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he may give to you."
You would expect the verse to be the reverse: God will give you what you ask in order that you might have a fruit-bearing mission. But Jesus says it the other way around: I give you a fruit bearing mission in order that the Father might answer your prayers. The point: prayer malfunctions when it is not used in fruit-bearing. Prayer is for fruit-bearing. DJ ,our new kid’s club, is for fruit-bearing. The children who come and are disciples are the fruit of our labor. When we pray for Club DJ we are praying for fruit. Jesus said, since I want you to pray and to get answers to your prayers, I chose you and I appointed you to go and bear fruit. Because prayer is for fruit-bearing. If you are not devoted to fruit-bearing, you have no warrant for expecting answers to prayer. Again I say, prayer is designed for fruit-bearing. Club
2. Prayer is not for gratifying natural desires.
Now I know that Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day, our daily bread." And what could be more natural than the desire to eat? And I know that there are dozens of instances in the Bible of people praying for desires as natural as the desire for protection from enemies and escape from danger and success in vocation and fertility in marriage, recovery from sickness, etc.
My point is not that those desires are wrong. My point is that they should always be subordinate to spiritual desires; kingdom desires; fruit-bearing desires; gospel-spreading desires, God-centered desires; Christ-exalting desires, God-glorifying desires. And when our natural desires are felt as a means to these greater desires, then they become the proper subject of prayer.
Just before Jesus said to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," he said, make it your heart's desire that God’s name would be hallowed and that the kingdom would come and that the will of God would be done on earth. When your heart is caught up with those great desires, then having something to eat is not merely a natural desire, but a means to some great God-centered end. And then it is the proper subject of prayer.
Prayer is for God's name and God's kingdom and God's will—it is for fruit-bearing in all those great things. If our protection, and our escape from danger, and our eating and having clothes and houses and lands and education and vocational success leads to those great God-centered ends (the name of God and kingdom of God and will of God), then we pray about them with confidence.
This is what David meant when he said in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." The desires of the heart cease to be merely natural desires when the heart delights above all else in the Lord. Delighting in the Lord—in the hallowing of his name and the seeking of his kingdom and the doing of his will—transforms all natural desires into God-related desires. They are transposed up into a higher key.
Prayer is not for gratifying natural desires. It is for fruit-bearing, for the glory of God. Another way of saying it is this: if you want God to respond to your interests, you must be devoted to his interests. God is God. He does not run the world by hiring the consulting firm called Mankind. He lets mankind share in the running of the world through prayer to the degree that we consult with him and get our goals and desires in tune with his purposes.
The evidence for this in the writing of John is 1 John 5:14, "This is the confidence which we have before him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." The key words being “according to his will”. Prayer is not for gratifying our natural desires. It is for gratifying our desires when those desires have been so purified and so saturated with God that they coincide with his plans. "If we ask anything according to his will."
John puts it another way in 1 John 3:22, "Whatever we ask we receive from him because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight." In other words prayer is not for gratifying natural desires. Prayer is for satisfying the desires of people who are devoted to God's desires.
James put it yet another way in James 4:3, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." Prayer is not for gratifying natural desires. Prayer is for fruit-bearing.
If we want to have power and effect in praying, we must devote ourselves to getting our desires into alignment with the fruit that God means to produce through us—and that fruit always has to do with the hallowing of his name and the coming of his kingdom and the doing of his will the way the angels do it in heaven.
3. The words of Jesus abiding in us prepare us for fruit-bearing prayer.
If prayer is not for gratifying natural desires but for bearing fruit for God, the major challenge of prayer is to become the kind of person who is not dominated by natural desires (to become what Paul calls a "spiritual person" as opposed to a merely "natural person" or "carnal person"). In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we’re told Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. And in Colossians 3:9 -10 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. The key to praying with power is to become the kind of persons who do not use God for our ends but are utterly devoted to being used for his ends. We are MADE NEW!
This is why Jesus says, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you." The words of Jesus abiding in us make us the kind of NEW persons who are not dominated by natural desires, but are devoted to fruit-bearing for God's glory.
Let me give you a few examples that show this from John's writings.
- In 1 John 1:10 he says, "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." If the words of Jesus were abiding in us, we would have known ourselves better—that we have sinned. The words of Jesus abiding in us is the key to a true and humble assessment of ourselves that keeps us in line with God's purposes.
- In John 17:8 Jesus prays, "They have received [my words] and truly understood that I came forth from You." In other words receiving the words of Jesus is the key to a true and exalted assessment of who Jesus is—the Son of God sent from the Father. And no one can pray in accord with God's purposes without a true grasp of who Jesus is in the world and what his purposes are in coming from the Father.
- In 1 John 2:14b John says, "I have written to you, young men, because . . . the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." So the words of Jesus abiding in us triumph over Satan and free us from the deceptions that would put us at odds with God and make natural desires dominate our lives.
- In John 14:24 Jesus says, "He who does not love me does not keep my words." So if we keep the words of Jesus—if they abide in us—they will define for us the path of love. And that is precisely the path where prayer was designed to bear fruit.
- In John 8:47 Jesus says, "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God." In other words if the words of God abide in you, you know that you are chosen of God (cf. John 8:31). The abiding of Jesus' words in you is evidence of your election and a ground of your assurance. And that assurance is indispensable in praying with faith and hope.
- In John 15:3 Jesus says, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you," and in John 17:17 he prays, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." When the Word of God abides in us, we are made clean and holy. And that means: in line with the fruit-bearing purposes of God.
Other examples could be given, but these are enough to show that the words of Jesus abiding in us prepare us for fruit-bearing prayer. It's the Word that gives us
a humble view of ourselves, and an exalted view of Jesus, and triumph over the devil, and a knowledge of the path of love, and the assurance of our election, and the power of holiness.
In other words it's the abiding Word of Jesus that puts us in tune with the fruit-bearing purposes of God to glorify himself. So the fourth and final truth about prayer is this.
4. The more we are saturated by the words of Jesus, the more our prayers will be answered.
Or to put it in a rhyme:
More saturated by the word
More surely our prayers be heard
The challenge of prayer is the challenge to become the kind of people who do not live at the level of mere natural desire, but who live to bear fruit for God — to hallow his name and seek his kingdom and do his will. And the key to becoming that kind of person is letting the words of Jesus — the Word of God as in John 14:10 - Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. —abide in us. Being filled and saturated by the words of Scripture brings us so close to the mind of God that we pray in tune with his purposes and receive whatever we ask.
I think this is a progressive experience, not a once for all one. That's why the final point is: the more we are saturated by the words of Jesus, the more our prayers will be answered.
If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.
More saturated by the word
More surely our prayers be heard
Father, I thank you that the communication of my faith becomes effectual by acknowledging every good thing which is in me in Christ Jesus. I hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. I hear my Father's voice, and the voice of a stranger I will not follow.
Father, I believe in my heart and say with my mouth that this day the will of God is done in my life. I walk in a manner worthy of You Lord, fully pleasing to You and desiring to please You in all things, bearing fruit in every good work. Jesus has been made unto me wisdom. I single-mindedly walk in that wisdom expecting to know what to do in every situation and to be on top of every circumstance!
I roll my works upon You, Lord, and You make my thoughts agreeable to Your will, and so my plans are established and succeed. You direct my steps and make them sure. I understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is for I am not vague, thoughtless, or foolish. I stand firm and mature in spiritual growth, convinced and fully assured in everything willed by God.
Father, You have destined and appointed me to come progressively to know Your will — that is to perceive, to recognize more strongly and clearly, and to become better and more intimately acquainted with (our will. I thank you, Father, for the Holy Spirit who abides permanently in me and Who guides me into all he truth — the whole, full truth — and speaks whatever He hears from the Father and announces and declares to me the things that are to come. I have the mind of Christ and hold the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of His heart.
So, Father, I have entered into that blessed rest by adhering, trusting, and relying on You in the name of Jesus. Hallelujah!