In John 15:7 we read these words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (NIV)
This verse contains two conditions for answered prayer: we must remain in Christ and His words must remain in us. The last article discussed the latter condition. In this article we’ll take a closer look at the former.
We can glean much insight into the meaning of the phrase “remain in me” by comparing different Bible translations.
What does it mean to “remain in Christ”? The word “remain” can also be translated “abide” (as found in the NASB and ESV) and it means to stay around, to continue, to persevere. The Living Bible offers this paraphrase of John 15:7 – “If you stay in me and obey my commands, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted.” The Contemporary English Version puts is this way: “Stay joined to me and let my teachings become part of you. Then you can pray for anything you want, and your prayer will be answered.” The Amplified Bible says to remain means to “abide vitally united to Me”.
All these versions are expressing a similar thought: “Remaining” is a synonym for intimate union and perseverance.
Jesus is saying that we must continue steadfastly in the faith if we expect our prayers to be answered. We cannot come and go as we please, taking a willy-nilly, flippant attitude toward the Lord and thinking, “Well, it doesn’t really matter if I wander away from God for awhile because I know He’ll always take me back.” Such an approach is to presume on the grace of God, which Paul vehemently denounces in Romans 6:1-2 – “Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase? May it never be!” (NASB)
Christianity was never meant to be a sometime or part-time endeavor. Jesus made this quite clear with His repeated demands for total commitment. “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Paul exhorted the Corinthians, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). We would do well to heed this command regularly, even weekly, for Paul also issued the command to self-examination in the context of observing the Lord’s supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:28).
Would you join me in taking a close look at your life, your faith and your level of commitment? Are we truly remaining in Christ? Are we “all in” for the long haul? If not, then we cannot expect God to answer our prayers.