Does Jesus’ metaphor here strike you as a bit odd?
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 (John 15:45)
Vine branches don’t have to try to abide in vine. They just do. only way they become detached is if someone or something detaches them.
Not so with us. We are strange “branches” that are prone to wander. Staying put in the vine is something we must obey. “Abiding” for us is a discipline.
So why are we prone to leave the “vine” we love? Because we are easily deceived into believing that we are vines, not branches. Remember Satan’s original deception, “You will be like God”? That’s what we want to be: vines! We don’t want to be branches. We want to bear our own fruit!
This is the ancient sin of pride and it governs fallen human nature. And we Christians remain susceptible to this very powerful and subtle temptation, which is why Jesus spoke this metaphor to his disciples. We struggle to believe that apart from him we can do nothing.
So how can we honestly evaluate the level to which we are abiding in Jesus? One simple way is to examine how we pray in secret. The Bible is clear: Word-saturated prayer is the primary means of abiding in Jesus. That’s why prayer is the chief of the spiritual disciplines and the one we are commanded to be constantly doing:
“[Pray] at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18); “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (Col. 4:2).
God appointed prayer as the chief of the disciplines precisely because it is designed to undermine our self-sufficient pride. Prayer requires profound humility and faith to exercise. It appears foolish and weak to the worldly-wise and strong. It’s the posture of a dependent child or a beggar. And since its productivity can’t be quantified, it can look like a waste of time.
In other words, prayer forces us to trust God.
This is why we selected “Prayerful Dependence” as one of our stated core values at Desiring God:
We seek our deepest delight in Jesus Christ and acknowledge that we can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). Our desire is to abide in him constantly, “[praying] at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). Therefore, we will be intentional to build prayer into the visible life of the organization at all levels and to cultivate a shared life together of living by faith in God’s future grace for us.
January is a month of resolutions. One of our ongoing resolutions at Desiring God is to cultivate more prayerful dependence on Jesus in our spreading efforts. Would you join us? Create your own resolution to cultivate greater prayerful dependence on God. Through more intentional prayer, let’s fight our desire to live like vines together and seek instead to be branches that are joyfully and firmly grafted in Jesus.
One way we want to encourage you in your personal resolution is to encourage you to listen to John Piper’s message, “Battling the Unbelief of Pride.” John draws from Paul, James, Peter, and Jeremiah to explain the nature of pride and how to fight its many manifestations. He includes a helpful section on the role of prayer in the battle. A memorable quote from his closing prayer is, “It is utter folly to be anything but a baby in your arms.”
As we start this new year, pray that God will help us spread a passion for his supremacy in all things further than ever before. We expect tens of thousands of new people around the world to discover and use the free resources on our website. So if you have been helped and nourished by these resources, we invite you to financially support this effort, since it is by donations that our online resources remain free.
The counter-intuitive truth is that unless we abide in Jesus through Word-saturated prayer, we will not be able to doanything. Being “devoted to prayer” (Rom. 12:12) isn’t just a romantic idea, it’s mission critical. May the Lord help us believeand live this truth more fully in 2007.
Seeking to be more prayerfully dependent,
PS: I’d like to invite you to join our Philippian Fellowship in 2007. Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “You sent me help for my needs once and again” (Philippians 4:14-16). DG’sPhilippian Fellowship is made up of friends who commit to supporting us at whatever they can afford and with whom we share prayer requests and ministry reports more frequently. Contact us if you are interested.