June 30, 2020 Marc Sims

Ask Whatever You Wish (John 15:1-11)

Ask Whatever You Wish (John 15:1-11)

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Sermon Manuscript:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:1-11

I wonder if you have heard the story of George Müller, the Prussian prayer warrior of the 1800’s. In the early 1800’s, there were almost no orphanages in England. Müller, who had moved to England in hopes to evangelize to Jewish communities there, was overwhelmed with plight of the orphans in Bristol. Müller was convinced that God had brought him to England to address this problem and provide care for those whom no one else in society cared for. But, he also had another motive. Müller was troubled by the coolness of many people’s faith in and outside of the church. He was frustrated that so many people functionally lived as if God did not care, did not hear, and was not real. He wanted a piece of visible proof that “our God and Father is the same faithful creator as he ever was.”

So, he pursued the goal of creating an orphan-home for the poorest and most destitute of orphans in Bristol all without ever asking for or advertising any financial support, only praying and trusting God to provide.

Müller read Psalm 81:10, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” and was moved to pray for a building, one thousand pounds, and a staff who would work in the orphanage. Within eighteen months, Müller had twohomes, sixty orphans, a full staff, and the full thousand pounds (equivalent to about 130,000 pounds in today’s money)—all provided without ever soliciting or asking for donations from anyone, only by praying. At the end of Müller’s life, he had received nearly one and a half million pounds (192 million in today’s economy) and had provided care for ten thousand orphans—all and exclusively by prayer. 

Do you pray? What do your prayers look like? If there was a printed transcript of your prayers for the last week printed out before you and you could read back through them, what would it tell you about your prayer life? About what you pray about most? About how much time you devote to prayer?

Would the content of that transcript, what you prayed about, be an accurate representation of what matters most to you? Would it show me what you consider to be the most important things in your life? By reading it, would I discover your greatest joys? Greatest fears? What you’re most thankful for? What your find most praise-worthy in God? If not, then why not?

If you’re like me, you would likely be fairly embarrassed for that “prayer transcript” to get into the hands of someone else. If you’re like me, you desperately want to grow in your discipline of prayer. For as long as I have been a Christian, I have never met any other Christian who felt that they could not grow in their prayer life. It is kind of like flossing, we all know we should do it more often, we all want to do it more, but, for some reason, we don’t. 

Why don’t we pray?

We think we are God.

Jesus tells His disciples, “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 15:4-5. Apart from Jesus, you and I can do nothing. God alone is self-reliant; He is the Creator and we are His creation. Listen to Moses’ warning to Israel as they are about to enter the promised land, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth,” Deut 8:17-18a.  God is the one who gives everything, we are dependent, and that dependence drives us to pray. We often don’t pray because we basically believe we are the ones who are in charge, we are the ones who are competent and capable of “taking care of it.” So, like toddlers who keep yanking back at the helping hand of a parent, we burden ourselves with anxiety, stress, fear, and countless frustrations. 

We don’t believe God answers prayer.

Did you see that almost scandalous sounding promise Jesus made? He tells His disciples, “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 (cf. John 14:13-14; 15:16). God doesn’t just maybe answer your prayer—ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Or listen to Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Friends, do you view prayer that way? This was precisely what Müller was wanting his entire life to testify to. As he read Psalm 81:10, “Open wide your mouths, and I will fill it,” he realized that God was eager provide for His children. John Calvin explains, “It follows, that the reason why God's blessings drop upon us in a sparing and slender manner is, because our mouth is too narrow.” The English puritan Thomas Case wrote in 1655, “You may easily over expect the creature, but you cannot over expect God…widen and dilate the desires and expectations of your souls, and God is able to fill every chink to the vastest capacity.” Or, as CS Lewis famously tells us, “It is not that our Lord finds our desires too strong, but too weak…we are far too easily pleased.” Paul prays, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” Eph 3:20. 

Friends, perhaps our prayer life is so anemic because we just honestly do not expect much from God. Prayer is a kind “discipline” that we ought to do as good Christians, or it is a baptized form of what the world calls “mindfulness”—a kind of self-therapeutic meditation to center our mind and arrive at an emotional equilibrium. Or when we say we will pray for someone, we really are just wanting them to know that we care about them, or that we feel sorry for them. Is that what the Bible describes prayer as? No—prayer is a communication with the living, personal God that brings about actual change in the world.

James plainly tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask,” James 4:2. So, that verse is saying that there are blessings in your life that you could have had but do not have because you did not ask—it does not mean that if you don’t ask, God will still give it you anyway because He is sovereign. That’s the exact opposite

Certainly, we can all think of plenty of prayers we prayed that weren’t answered. But, of course, that is where all the conditions in those verses must be paid attention to. If we abide in Christ and his word in us, then ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you! If you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart. But, of course, if we find our delight and joy in the Lord, then the desires of our heart align with the desires of God’s heart, and our requests change. So we don’t have the same desires an unregenerate person has. In face, James clarifies, “You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions,” James 4:2-3.

We are impatient. 

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” – Luke 18:1-8

Sometimes, in the Lord’s mysterious providence, He has decided that the answer to our prayers will only come after a prolonged season of seeking Him. How many of you have prayed long for the salvation of a friend, a family member, a child? Have you felt discouraged that after six months, six years, sixty years it appears that the Lord has not answered your prayers?

Müller recounted a story of his steadfastness in prayer in a sermon towards the end of his life: “In November, 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six years more passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer, in the self-same day or hour in which they were offered, has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these two individuals, and yet they remain unconverted…But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer.”

It is our privilege as those in Christ.

Maybe we do not pray because we are unaware that this is our privilege and right as those who are united to Christ by faith. Communion with the Father is our birthright as children who have been adopted into the family of God. We were once enemies of God and the thought of coming into the presence of God made us uncomfortable, fearful, and anxious, the way a criminal would feel coming into the presence of a judge. We wanted to flee the judge, not be in his presence—let alone pester him day and night with our requests! But now, dear friends, because we have looked to Christ and trusted that his death was a sufficient payment for our sins, we now not only feel a peace while in the Father’s presence, we eagerly and actively seek Him out through our prayers. 

Not only that, but the Bible tells that upon being received into the family of God, we have been given the Holy Spirit who helps us pray in accordance with the will of God (Rom 8:26-27). And, we are told that after Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and now sits enthroned in heaven interceding on our behalf (Rom 8:34; 1 John 2:1). This means that our prayers, as Christians, come from the Holy Spirit at work within us, directed to the Father, through Jesus Christ our mediator. This is why we conclude our prayers “in Jesus’ name.” It is an acknowledgement that the only grounds we have for our prayers being heard in heaven is the fact that we are in Jesus and our prayers are translated through Him and presented before the Father with the same grounds that Jesus’ prayers received. Do you see the confidence this should give you as a Christian when you pray? Do you think the Father listened to Jesus’ prayers? Do you think He answered them?


Pray with your Bible open

Pray by yourself and with others

Pray longer

Pray for your church