John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Do you pray? If you do, what do you pray for? What’s your asking based on? How do you know how to pray? Jesus’ instructions in John 15 give us some deep insight into these questions.
First, we must abide in him in order to expect answers to prayer. What does that mean? As he teaches throughout John 15, it means to remain in constant relationship to him. To realize that we are as dependent on him as a branch in a grape vine is dependent on the vine. Without the vine, the branch can’t exist. Without the vine, the branch has no life in it. Without the vine, there is no nourishment for the branch and as a result, no fruit. It is to realize how much we need him, and this will drive us to moment-by-moment dependence on him. It will reinforce in us that we should “pray about everything (Philippians 4:6)” and “pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17)” rather than to just reserve prayer for times of crisis or times when we don’t know what else to do.
Further, knowledge of the Word of God (i.e., “if my words abide in you”) is absolutely essential to prayer. How can we know the One we are praying to if we are not reading His Word? How can we know what we can pray for, if God is able or wants to answer us regarding a particular thing, or how to actually ask? As Jesus’ disciples spent time with him and saw him pray time and time again, they were moved to ask him “Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11:1).” And Jesus taught them. But He also left us with His very words to them as a guide.
His word has many examples of the prayers of the godly to give us patterns of prayer to follow. Look at the prayers of Moses (Exodus 32:9-14; Psalm 90), David (Psalm 51), Paul (Ephesians 1:15-22; Colossians 1:9-14), the writers of the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 119), and Jesus himself (John 17). And the Word also gives us understanding of reasons we are not to pray (Matthew 6:5) and things we are not to pray for (e.g., James 4:3).
May God teach us to pray, and to pray in accordance with His will and Word.