YI. FRUIT AND PRAYER
"Ye did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My Name, He may give it you." John xv. 16.
In these the closing words of the parable, Christ speaks of two things in which He has chosen and appointed His disciples. The one is that they should bear fruit that , abides; the other, that they should pray prayer that prevails. Fruit on earth that carries in it real power to prevail with men, prayer in heaven that carries in it power to prevail with God—such is the aim and purpose, such will be the outcome to those who in simple faith make their election and appointment sure.
Abiding fruit for men, prevailing prayer with God—it is not difficult to see the connection. Christ is not speaking here of the prayer that is needed for and before fruit bearing. As an exercise of the spiritual life, as a means of obtaining grace for the abiding and the fruitfulness, such prayer is unspeakably needed and blessed. Nevertheless it is not the highest form of prayer, and, if we confine ourselves to it, the result will be a failure in the higher regions of spiritual activity, and in the power to grasp fully the higher prayer promises. Read the text carefully, and you will see at once Christ speaks of a power of prevailing prayer that comes with and after fruit, and is in part a reward for it. It is in intercessory prayer that the Christian life reaches its full maturity and exercises its highest power. It is the believer who has given himself wholly to the life of abiding and fruitbearing, and who bears fruit that abides, to whom the power will come fully to take in and avail themselves of the promise: "I have appointed you that ye should bear fruit, and that your fruit may abide: that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He may give it you."
This is the second time Christ speaks of prayer in the parable. He said, " He that abideth in me, the same bringeth forth much fruit." "If ye abide in Me, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." The abiding was to bring the double blessing—power to bear much fruit, power to prevail in prayer. The close union to Christ manifests itself in two ways—on earth in the outflow of His life and strength as fruit for men ; in heaven as power in His name to obtain for men from God what we will. The same spirit of devotion to the glory of God and the welfare of men that manifests itself in seeking to be a branch, entirely given up to Christ, through which He can bear fruit, feels constrained and has confidence to enter bodily and ask great things of God. Not every minister or worker who labours diligently and earnestly, but everyone who works in the true, branch-like dependence on Christ and direct obedience to His will, will find the liberty for the ministry of intercession. This is the deep and full meaning of the words so often connected—Working and Praying.
It is of consequence that we realise the connection between the two. Look at our Lord Jesus. His work of redemption on earth is the basis and the strength of His work of intercession in heaven. In giving Himself up to God for men, He proves Himself worthy of having the power of unlimited intercession put into His hands. Unmeasured devotion to God and men, the most complete self-sacrifice on their account, was His preparation for receiving the keys of the Kingdom, and the fulfilment of the promise, " Ask of me and I will give Thee." He submitted Himself to the law under which His people stood, and opened the way for their sharing with Him in His power. There is for them no other way. It is easy to pray, as long as we have not given ourselves to be wholly branches, to bear much fruit; but the prayer will avail little. Christ's words are plain and solemnly true: "I have
appointed you that ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you."
"We must remember," says Mr. Coillard in his "On The Threshold Of Central Africa," "that it was not by interceding for the world in glory that Jesus saved it. He gave Himself. Our prayers for the evangelisation of the world are a bitter irony so long as we only give our superfluity, and draw back before the sacrifice of ourselves.
The chief privilege of the branch life, the highest exercise of its power, is intercession. Such is the first thought suggested.
It cannot be otherwise. In our abiding and fruit-bearing we have to do more directly with Christ the Vine. But He wants to lead us on to such a personal access to and intercourse with the Father as He Himself enjoyed: "At that day ye shall ask in My name; and I say not I will pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loveth you." Intercession is His crowning glory, the work he does upon the throne. For us to have access to God, to have power with God, to ask whatsoever we will, and have it given— this is the glory that excelleth. To enter within the veil and dwell there, there to enter into God's mind and love and promises, thence to look out upon the world and its needs, then every day to offer ourselves to God for men, and then to pray in power for the Spirit for ourselves and those around us—this is the true life in Christ Jesus.
This is the gift of which the Church so greatly needs a larger measure. It is the lack of this boldness and perseverance of intercession that takes the, "Ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you," in simple earnest, and seeks to prove its truth to the utmost, that is the cause of our lack of power. Shall we not gird ourselves to take up our double appointment, "that ye bear fruit that shall abide: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may do it?" Shall we not rather—for we have often done our utmost to take hold of these promises—shall we not rather ask and trust, and in stillness wait for the Holy Spirit to give the very truth and spirit of these words as a living fire within us, so that it be not so much a matter of memory or purpose, but the outcome of an inward and spontaneous life
power, to bear abiding fruit that we may pray prevailing prayer? To the soulabiding in Christ the devotion to much fruit-bearing for men will give the power for much intercourse with God.
This will be our second lesson: Faithfulness in abiding and fruit-bearing is the indispensable condition of power in intercession.
"Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things "— this is the law of the Kingdom. It is the man who is faithful over a few things, in what is nearest, in his own personal abiding in Christ and his fruit-bearing for those around him, who will be set over many things, and have the power given for real prevailing intercession in wider circles. John says, " If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Faithfulness in the lesser, in our conduct toward the brother near us, is the only way to reach the higher fellowship with the unseen God. We cannot impress it on ourselves too deeply—our power of access as intercessors, our power of prevailing prayer with God in Heaven, depends on a life given up to fruit-bearing for men.
What light this throws on all the parable has taught us about fruit! Here you have the reason why the Father cleanses us that we may bear more fruit, why the Son calls us so urgently to abide in Him and bear much fruit. It is that we may be led on to the higher honour of standing in God's counsel—may we not say, becoming His Privy Councillors, whom He admits to a share in the rule of the world, and whose will He allows a voice in the distribution of His blessings?
Let us seek to combine the two things. Let all our desire to abide in Christ and bear fruit that abides point us on to the still higher grace of intercession—seeking and obtaining from God His heavenly blessing in greater power. And let all our intercession ever lead us back to the question whether our life is indeed a branch-life, as wholly given to abiding and fruit-bearing as the natural branch, or as the Heavenly Vine Himself. Rest not till that question has had a clear and full answer.
It is this abiding and fruit-bearing as the condition of intercession, that is meant and summed up in the word the "Name of Christ." The promise Christ gives that the fruit-bearer shall receive from the Father whatsoever he shall ask is limited to prayer " in My Name."
We all know the force of the expression, "It is all a mere name." How much there has been in prayer of the use of Christ's Name in which it has been but a name, and nothing more; or in which the use of the Name has been limited to certain thoughts about Him; or of the vain effort to use it in our strength, without the God-given faith that alone can speak it aright I
And what then does that Name mean, and what does its use imply? A name always supposes the object, the reality, the living person to which it applies. When I take the name of Christ on my lips in prayer, it means that I have the living Christ Himself there. He said, " If ye abide in Me, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you." On earth we sometimes use the name of an absent person as our plea. In prayer to God this is not so. It is a present Christ whose Name we plead—present with God, present with us. The two conditions of prevailing prayer Christ mentions in the parable are eventually one—" If ye abide in Me," and "In My Name" ask what ye will, and it shall be done. They both express the same thing, living union to Christ. The name always expresses the nature. And how can I wield this mighty power of God, asking what I will, and getting it, except as the life and nature and power of the Son of God work in me?
As I am called to use that Name, I need to waken my consciousness to the fact of how entirely it is Christ that brings me nigh to God, to stir my faith to the confident assurance that I am indeed in Christ, and Christ in me, and that therefore my prayer will be heard. God's judgment of what the Name of Christ really is to me depends on what He sees of the abiding in Him. While to the unconverted or the new-born feeble Christian the Name is given as their plea, when they know nothing but His blessed atonement and righteousness, in these special prayer promises, for the work of the kingdom and its extension through intercession, the Name means a good deal more. "// ye abide in Me, ask whatsoever ye will and it shall be done to you "; "that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He may give it you." The Name of Christ, proved to be true in us by abiding and
fruit-bearing, is the power of prevailing prayer.
"We have come to the end of our meditations. We have, I trust, learnt the great truth the parable teaches—that, as surely as every vine and its every branch exists only for the sake of its fruit, so Christ the Heavenly Vine and His every Branch exists solely to bring forth fruit for the salvation of men. And with that the other truth, which is its complement—that for our abundant fruit-bearing to the glory of God the most abundant and sufficient provision has been made in Christ Jesus. We must bear fruit; we can bear much fruit.
As we now turn to be not hearers only but doers, and ask how we are to enter upon this life of much fruit-bearing, let us beware of one mistake. Do not begin at the wrong end. The branch stands between the vine and the fruit. I have often repeated the thought. Set your heart on fruit as God's heart is set upon it. But beware of beginning by looking at what you think you can do. The result will probably be the fear that you are as far from bearing much fruit as ever. Let me say to every young believer who would learn to live out the parable to the full: Turn to Jesus the Heavenly Vine. Fix your eye on Him and the certainty that He will work all in you. Fix your heart on God the Husbandman, who will care for you as He cares for jfesus, "He that believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." Believe in Christ Jesus, and streams of living sap will flow through you, and out of you in fruit. Do, as a true disciple, yield yourself to the Vine to be as entirely set apart for fruit-bearing as He is: He will fill you with His heavenly life.
Let us all cry mightily to God that the great and mighty truth may be revealed fully in us, and around us in the Church, by His Holy Spirit. Let us live as witnesses for it. Let us seek especially for grace when we have access to young Christians or influence over them, to train them for this most blessed life—being true fruit-bearing branches of the True Vine.
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