When it comes to prayer, there are different facets to its nature. For example, prayer, foremost, is communion with God. Prayer, at a base level, should be delightful communion with our creator, savior, and friend. But prayer is also petitionary. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus directs us to “ask for our daily bread.” God expects us to “ask” for our needs, even though he knows what we have need of. Further, prayer is also intercession in behalf of others.
This past Sunday, one of our church members shared about his dad, who was diagnosed with cancer in the brain and lungs. The cancer was spreading, and the family was concerned. He shared with his Life Group a few weeks ago about his dad’s condition and they began to pray for him. Recently, his dad saw the oncologist, and it was discovered that there was no cancer in the brain or lungs! A small trace of cancer is still in his hip, but by faith, we are believing for his complete healing. The congregation rejoiced as we heard this healing testimony—Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
When it comes to petitionary or intercessory prayer, do you have the right to ask God for your requests? Said another way, “how demanding can you be in prayer?” The answer to these questions might surprise you. Let’s use the parable of the vine Jesus gave in John 15 to answer these questions related to prayer.
Jesus, the one true Vine
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:1-8 NKJV
Within Jewish tradition, the vine was a picture of Israel. God brought a vine out of Egypt and planted it in the Promised Land (see Psalm 80:8-18). It had been ravaged by wild animals and needed protection and reestablishment. The prophet Isaiah reveals that the vineyard of Israel has borne wild grapes instead of proper ones (see Isaiah 5). Other OT prophets used the same picture to illustrate Israel as a vine that has been ravaged.
In John’s gospel, Jesus is declaring that he is the “true vine” or the “true Israel.” He is the one on whom God’s purposes are now resting. Further, he implies that his followers are members of God’s true people—if they belong to him and remain “in” him. This parable about the vine is about Jesus and his people. Jesus concludes the parable about fruitfulness:
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be my disciples.” John 15:8 NKJV
Jesus openly declares that the Father desires for the followers of Jesus to bear fruit. This fruitfulness should be two-fold. First, it is the development of Godly character in one’s life, or as Paul describes in Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit. Secondly, Christians should be bearing fruit of the kingdom of God, i.e. reaching the lost, setting people free, healing the sick, and making disciples—resulting in the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
A few verses later, Jesus makes this bold statement to his disciples,
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” John 15:16 NKJV
He reinforces the concept that his disciples should be fruitful. But he also gives three important principles as to how we can be fruitful in our Christian life:
1st Principle—Know you are Chosen by God
It is vital that you and I understand that our acceptance of Jesus brings us into sonship with God and adoption into God’s family. This gives us security and confidence as we are busy about the Father’s work. Further, it is foundational to praying with conviction and assurance that God hears and will answer prayer.
2nd Principle—Know you are Appointed by God
Each of us has been appointed to bear fruit, given an assignment (purpose and destiny) by God that only we can fulfill. Therefore, to aid us in being fruitful in our assignment, God has promised to meet every need that we have to fulfill purpose and bear fruit that remains.
3rd Principle—Know you are Promised by God.
In this parable, we have clear promises by Jesus that God will answer prayer as we endeavor to bear kingdom fruit. We need to have a firm conviction of the faithfulness of God to answer prayer—he wants us to be fruitful and for our fruit to endure! Let’s unpack the parable further to understand these truths.
Ask What You Desire
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7 NKJV
Do you notice that Jesus clearly says we should expect answers to our prayer, but there are conditions. But before I unpack this verse and parable, let’s ask some more questions.
First, “Do you have the right to demand anything from God?” Secondly, “How bold do you dare to be in prayer?” Thirdly, “What are your rights, your limitations, and your boundaries when it comes to the issue of prayer?” I’m asking these questions because I find that many people struggle with being direct and bold in prayer. Yet, I believe Jesus is inviting us, through this parable and other teachings he gave on prayer, to be confident and direct with God when praying.
I believe that the above questions are answered by another question, “Are you abiding in Christ?” John 15:4 says,
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” NKJV
Abide in this verse is translated from the Greek word ménō. Ménō means primarily to stay in relation, to continue, to remain, to abide, and to endure. a. “to stay in a place,” figuratively “to remain in a sphere,” b. “to stand against opposition,” “to hold out,” “to stand fast,” c. “to stay still,” and d. “to remain,” “to endure,” “to stay in force.”  Ménō implies that there is an action required on our part—we are to abide, or remain, endure or stand fast in the Lord.
We’ve been united together with Christ through faith and work of the Spirit, but we are to “remain in Christ,” or be intentional about our relationship with him. The depth of your prayer life will be discovered through your ongoing relationship with Jesus. All fruitfulness is linked to your intimacy with Christ.
Out of intimate relationship with God, your asking becomes one of confident assurance. Your remaining in him builds faith and trust that he will answer your prayers and meet your needs. Your understanding of God changes as your mind becomes renewed. Prayer now flows from intimacy with Jesus, and expectation for answers is the outflow of ones abiding relationship.
Missionary Rolland Baker said this about prayer and relationship with God,
The Christian life is first and foremost a romance with God—we should feel God’s love. Prayer isn’t hard work, a struggle between our will and God’s. Prayer is communion with God and should be the freest and most intimate of all communication. Miracles, church growth, revival, and transformation are all excellent, but nothing compares to simply being in love with Jesus. Love is the outflow of our intimacy with Christ.”
When our focus is upon Jesus and abiding in him, love flows and promises are realized. All fruitfulness in life is discovered through abiding in the one true vine.
Jesus used an attention-grabbing word in John 15:7 when He was speaking to the disciples about prayer. Ask in this verse is from the Greek word aitéo and silences the religious suggestion that we are unworthy, with no rights to come into the presence of God and ask. It also refutes the concept that we must pitifully beg the Lord for the things we have need.
Aitéo means to be adamant in requesting and demanding assistance to meet tangible needs, such as food, shelter, money and so forth. Aitéo also means to ask with urgency, even to the point of demanding— ‘to ask for, to demand, to plead for.’ 
Although this word aitéo means to demand or insist, it does not give a believer the right to be arrogant or rude in his approach to God. In the NT, the word aitéo is used to portray a person addressing a superior. The person may insist or demand that certain needs be met, but he approaches and speaks to his superior with respect and honor.
The word aitéo also expresses the idea that one possesses a full expectation to receive what was firmly requested. The king, over his kingdom, promises to provide!
Jesus said in Luke’s gospel, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32 NKJV Our benevolent King and Father promises to take care of us! Yet he is expecting us to ask, through petitionary prayer with confidence. We are to “make a demand” upon heaven, as we are confidently abiding in Jesus, expecting prayer to be answered and fruit to remain.
The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit!
Next week I’ll build this theme and continue with Part 2: Do you have the right to ask?
Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament(581). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
Greek-English lexicon of the NT