Prayers That Get Answered
It is important to note that both of these "ask and get" verses are connected to an equally important truth.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:7, 8).
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (15:16).
The whole passage is all about fruit-bearing, or producing the character of God in our lives. We know from Galatians 5:22, 23 what some of these qualities are: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” In the passage in John 15, the quality of love is key to this last message Jesus delivered to His disciples before the cross.
We need to remember that the promise connected with getting what we ask for in prayer is connected to producing fruit in our lives. Notice the word “if” in John 15:7 and the word “then” in John 15:16. It’s only as we remain connected to Him and allow His life to flow through us to produce these characteristics that we can expect to have our prayers answered.
But there is another truth here. I strongly suspect that this promise does not turn out to resemble something like the following scenario. “Lord, I am abiding in you and I’m allowing you to develop love, joy, and all the other things in my life, so could you provide for me so that I will debt-free by Christmas, or heal me from my cancer, or turn my son’s life around?”
All of these are worthy requests.
Context is very important when we read and apply Scripture. The context here is producing spiritual fruit and the promise to give us what we ask for is also part of that context. For example, if we ask God to help us develop patience as we are going through a difficult experience in life, He will meet that need. If we have been robbed of joy for some reason or are having a problem with self-control, and ask Him to give us victory, He will do that. What we ask for related to the producing of the character qualities He is seeking to develop in our lives will be granted. Unless helping us to be debt-free, or healthy or fixing our kids, contributes to the fruit-bearing in our lives, we might not see the answers we hope for. In fact, financial stress, ill-health, and struggles with interpersonal relationships often are the tools God uses to develop these character qualities in us.
The key here is that when we are abiding in Him, and as our lives are producing godly character traits because we are abiding in Him, our asking changes. We begin to ask for Him to send into our lives those circumstances and people who will help us become more like Him. Such a request is an act of strong faith. But these are requests that God is delighted to fulfill because these are the things that bring Him glory. And bringing Him glory through our godly character is exactly what He has designed us for (15:16).