This promise that Jesus made to us is so sweeping in its scope and seems beyond the experience of many of us that it can strike us as unbelievable:
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)
We don’t even attempt to cash this check at the bank of heaven. There must be insufficient funds in our account. Whatever we wish will be done for us? Having desired and asked God for so many things that haven’t been done for us, we figure either 1) Jesus is using hyperbole or 2) this promise is only for super-saints who experience a kind of connection with God that we don’t seem to have.
Neither is true. Jesus doesn’t exaggerate and he chooses weak, foolish people (1 Corinthians 1:26), people whose faith is small (Matthew 14:31), people just like us, to be his disciples.
No, this promise is real and Jesus is making this promise to us. It is not to be passed over with a shrug. It is a check to be grasped, taken to the bank of Heaven where there is no lack of treasure, and cashed. Jesus wants us to cash it.
But there are two conditions we must meet for the check to be valid. The first is that we must abide in Jesus. Remember the context of the previous six verses. We are to abide in Jesus just as branches abide (are embedded) in a vine. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing (verse 5) and, in fact, we wither. Abiding branches have the sap of the Holy Spirit running through them, which means that the branches receive and share the affections and wishes of the vine.
Our joy doesn’t spring from Jesus giving us what we want but Jesus being what we want.
The second condition we must meet is that Jesus’s words must abide in us. What this means is all of Jesus’s words, not just the words in John 15:1–6. We know that because of what Jesus says in verse 10: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” Jesus loves us by telling us the truth (John 17:8, 26) and we love him by believing and therefore obeying/living what he says (John 14:15).
So by these two conditions — staying in Jesus and having Jesus’s words stay in us — he shapes our desires and our thoughts through the Holy Spirit so that our wishes and his are increasingly the same. You see, it is only natural that a branch should receive exactly what it needs from the vine.
The only times our prayers seem to go unanswered are when 1) we don’t share Jesus’s wishes because we aren’t abiding in him (James 4:3) or 2) we don’t share Jesus’s timeline, or 3) we don’t recognize Jesus’s unexpected answers.
This is a promise that Jesus wants you to believe and one he loves to fulfill. Because through it we discover that our joy doesn’t spring from Jesus giving us what we want but Jesus being what we want.