A few years ago I decided to grow an apple tree. I ordered a tiny little baby tree, which looked like a stick with one leaf on it. We lovingly called it, “the apple stick”. A couple years passed and my little apple tree still resembled a stick with one leaf on it. I’m not sure if it ever grew any taller. It certainly didn’t get anymore branches and definitely no apples. I’m not exactly sure how long we had the apple stick, but at some point it got mowed over and that was the end at my attempt to plant a tree.
The only thing that thrives in my yard are weeds and thistles. I don’t know anything about trees so when I read passages in scripture that deal with any amount of botany I feel a bit out of my element.
In John 15, Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. If we want to be bear fruit we need to abide in him because apart from him we are not capable of doing anything.
I love it when Jesus gets all intense and hardcore, but what does He mean by these words?
To abide means to live or rest in something or someone. Jesus made it really clear that we need to rest in Him. We need to be making our home in Him. We need to be so closely tied to Jesus that He is our very breath.
And the reason this is so important is because apart from Him we can do nothing! Doesn’t this seem a bit strange? I am able to walk and talk all on my own. I can go to the store, make decisions, interact with people, drive my car, have fun with friends, eat and breathe even when I am not thinking about Jesus. As I look around me most everyone can do all these things as well and more. Even those who hate God.
So what is Jesus talking about when He says that “apart from me you can do nothing”?
All things come from God
As humans we have this incredible habit of thinking very highly of ourselves. We think we are autonomous and can do anything we put our minds to. But actually every ability we have and everything we possess comes from God the giver of all things (James 1).
The fine motor skills of a surgeon, the analytical thinking proficiency of a computer programmer, the compassionate heart of a social worker, even those healthy bones and strong muscles we gain through working out are ultimately gifts God has given to us. He is the one who gives us every breath we take throughout every single day (Acts 17:25).
This also goes for our spiritual lives. He is the one who breathed life into our dead hearts, reviving it with His power (Ez. 36:25-27). He gives us value and meaning.
He is the one who will sustain us to the end (Phil. 1:6) and helps us fight temptations. He is the one who will raise us again.
Now what does all this have to do with prayer?
Prayer is one of the main ways in which we abide. It is how we increase our dependence upon God because we come to understand that without Him we can’t do or be anything. This acknowledged dependence causes us to run to him for everything and anything.
Practically this looks like this: If something hard comes into our lives we should run to God first before we run to our family and friends. If something exciting and good happens we should go to God in thanksgiving before we text our friends. When we need help or wisdom we ask God for guidance before calling our parents, and when we are hurting or sad we weep to our savior before turning to anyone else.
As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to mend shoes so it is the business of Christians to pray – Martin Luther
Luther is so right. It is our business as children of God to go to our Father for all things. This causes us to abide in Jesus and creates an increased dependence upon the the one to whom we owe our life and everything in it.
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