I want to speak to you today about ideal prayer. I want you to see the nature of the prayer life we are growing into. Before I begin, I need to say that you do not have to be mature in your prayer to connect with God and affect the world. The Bible calls us to pray all the time whether you know what to pray or not. Although we are weak and shallow and immature, we're praying to a God who is infinite, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
At the same time it is important to see what our prayer is growing toward. One of the passages that give us the best picture of the prayer available to us is John 15. Look with me at John 15:7,8.
“If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
This verse begins, "If you remain in me." It is important to see that this is part of the same thought as John 15:5.
“I am the vine you are the branches. If anyone remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus is talking about ultimate continual intimacy. This is related to Paul's command for us to pray without ceasing. Remaining in Him is to live every day in constant awareness of His presence, in constant intimacy with Him. John 17 is essentially in the same context. There Jesus prayed a powerful prayer for us. Toward the end of that prayer He prayed that we would be unified with Him and with the Father, “I in them and you and me.”
John 15:7 continues, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Do His words dwell in your mind and heart? Do you see how this is essential to prayer? You and I are bombarded with influences on every hand. To weed out those influences we need God's voice speaking to us, His word influencing us. What are the Lord's words to us? Are His words only the words Jesus spoke while He walked on Earth? His word certainly includes those. But His word would also include the entire Bible. Everything in the Bible focuses on Him. In John 5:39 Jesus said “You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life and they are they which testify of me.” All Scripture is about Him. We see and connect with Him in Scripture.
His word will speak to you in any situation. If you wish to remain in His word, you need to memorize Scripture. I have sometimes had a scripture come to my mind that I had not memorized. That is a work of the Holy Spirit. However, I can multiply the occurrence of that by memorizing verses. Let me tell you something about the very passage that I'm writing to you about right now. These verses struck me some time ago. At the time I really wasn't exactly sure what He was saying to me. But I memorized the verses. Then I put them into my prayer guide that I pray through every day. And I begin to sense God speaking to me more and more.
Strangely enough, I remember getting glimpses of verses like this as a young Christian, and feeling like there was something wrong about them. It it seemed to me that God was saying, “If you pray what I want you to pray, you can have what you pray for. And there is a sense in which that is true. But of course I did not take into account that I didn't know what I would enjoy and what would be best for me nearly as well as God who loved me with everlasting love. It is a little like a child wanting to drive a car. He thinks being in control of that car means he can drive anywhere and anyway he wishes. But to really be in control he needs to stay on the road rather than the sidewalk or the front room of your house. Prayer is more powerful than any car. Remaining and his word matures our thinking. We begin to want what is best for us what is right what pleases God even if we do not understand it.
And the answered prayer that flows out of abiding in Him glorifies Jesus. Many wise people down through history have discovered that selfishness is the source of bitterness and heartache. But in fellowship with Jesus we discover the joy of glorifying our heavenly Father. Nothing else breaks our selfish perspective. And we are able to glorify Him as our prayers bear fruit. As God blesses others through our prayers, people will recognize that we are truly His disciples.