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Obedience: The Path To Power In Prayer

By Andrew Murray

    “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide: that whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16).

    “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16).

    The promise of the Father’s giving whatsoever we ask is here once again renewed to show us to whom it is that such wonderful influence in the council chamber of the Most High is to be granted. “I chose you,” the Master says, “and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide.” He then adds, “that whatsoever you [the fruit-bearing ones] shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”

    This is nothing but the fuller expression of what He had spoken in the words, “if you abide in Me.” He had spoken of the object of this abiding as the bearing “fruit,” “more fruit,” and “much fruit.” In this was God to be glorified, and the mark of discipleship seen. No wonder He now adds that where the reality of the abiding is seen in fruit abounding and abiding, this would be the qualification for praying so as to obtain what we ask. Entire consecration to the fulfillment of our calling is the condition of effectual prayer. It is the key to the unlimited blessings of Christ’s wonderful prayer promises.

    There are Christians who fear that such a statement is at variance with the doctrine of free grace. But surely not with free grace understood rightly, nor with so many express statements of God’s blessed word. Take the words of John (1 John 3:22): “Let us love in deed and truth; hereby shall we assure our heart before Him. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”

    Or take the oft-quoted words of James: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16). That is, a man of whom, according to the definition of the Holy Spirit, it can be said, “He that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7), this man’s prayer availeth much.

    Mark the spirit of so many of the psalms with their confident appeal to the integrity and righteousness of the supplicant. In Psalm 18 David says, “The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath He recompensed me…I was upright before Him and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness” (Psa. 18:20-26). See also Psalm 7:3-5; 15:1-2; 17:3, 6; 119:121, 153.

    If we carefully consider such utterances in the light of the New Testament, we shall find them in perfect harmony with the explicit teaching of the Savior’s parting words, “If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love” (John 15:10), and “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15;14). The word is indeed meant literally: “I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”

    Let us seek to enter into the spirit of what the Savior here teaches us. There is danger in our evangelical religion of looking too much at what it offers from one side, as if certain experiences are to be obtained in prayer and faith. There is another side which God’s Word puts very strongly, that of obedience as the only path to blessing. What we need to realize is that in our relationship to the infinite being whom we call God, who created and redeemed us, the first sentiment that ought to animate us is that of subjection. The surrender to His supremacy, His glory, His will, His pleasure ought to be the first and uppermost thought of our life.

    The question is not how we obtain and enjoy His favor, for in this we still see self. But what this Being in the very nature of things rightfully claims, and is infinitely and unspeakably worthy of, is that His glory and pleasure should be my one object. Surrender to His perfect and blessed will, a life of service and obedience, is the beauty and the charm of heaven. Service and obedience, these were the thoughts that were uppermost in the mind of the Son when He dwelt upon the earth. Service and obedience, these must become with us the chief objects of desire and aim, more so than rest or light or joy or strength. In them we shall find the path to all higher blessedness that awaits us.

    Just note what a prominent place the Master gives it, not only in this 15th chapter in connection with the abiding, but in the 14th, where He speaks of the indwelling of the Three-One God. In verse 15 we have it: “If you love Me, keep My commandments, and the Spirit will be given you of the Father.” Then verse 21 says, “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” He shall have the special love of the Father resting on him and the special manifestation of Christ.

    Then again, verse 23, one of the highest of all the exceeding great and precious promises: “If a man love Me he will keep My words, and the Father and I will come and take up our abode with him.” Could words put it more clearly that obedience is the way to the indwelling of the Spirit, to His revealing the Son within us, and to His again preparing us to be the abode, the home of the Father? The indwelling of the Three-One God is the heritage of them that obey.

    Obedience and faith are but two aspects of one act, surrender to God and His will. As faith strengthens for obedience, it is in turn strengthened by it. Faith is made perfect by works. It is to be feared that often our efforts to believe have been unavailing because we have not taken up the only position in which a large faith is legitimate or possible, that of entire surrender to the honor and the will of God. It is the man who is entirely consecrated to God and His will who will find the power to claim everything that his God has promised to be for him.

    The application of this in the school of prayer is very simple, but very solemn. “I chose you,” the Master says, “and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit,” (much fruit) “and that your fruit should abide,” (that your life might be one of abiding fruit and abiding fruitfulness) “that” (thus, as fruitful branches abiding in Me) “whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”

    O how often we have sought to be able to pray the effectual prayer for much grace to bear fruit, and have wondered that the answer came not. It was because we were reversing the Master’s order. We wanted to have the comfort and the joy and the strength first, that we might do the work easily and without any feeling of difficulty or self-sacrifice. He wanted us in faith, without asking whether we felt weak or strong, whether the work was hard or easy, in the obedience of faith to do what He said. The path of fruit bearing would have led us to the place and the power of prevailing prayer.

    Obedience is the only path that leads to the glory of God. Not obedience instead of faith, nor obedience to supply the shortcomings of faith. No, faith’s obedience gives access to all the blessings our God has for us. The baptism of the Spirit (14:16), the manifestation of the Son (14:21), the indwelling of the Father (14:23), the abiding in Christ’s love (15:10), the privilege of His holy friendship (15:14), and the power of all prevailing prayer (15:16), all wait for the obedient.

    Let us take home the lessons. Now we know the great reason why we had not had great power in faith to pray prevailingly. Our life was not as it should have been. Simple downright obedience, abiding fruitfulness, was not its chief mark. With our whole heart we approve of the divine appointment. Men to whom God is to give such influence in the rule of the world as at their request to do what otherwise would not take place, men whose will is to guide the path in which God’s will is to work, must be men who have themselves learned obedience, whose loyalty and submission to authority must be above all suspicion. Our whole soul approves the law of obedience and fruit bearing, the path to prevailing prayer. With shame we acknowledge how little our lives have yet borne this stamp.

    Let us yield ourselves to take up the appointment the Savior gives us. Let us study His relation to us as Master. Let us seek no more with each new day to think in the first place of comfort or joy or blessing. Let the first thought be, I belong to the Master. During every moment and with every movement I must act as His property, as a part of Himself, as one who seeks to know and do His will. A servant, a slave of Jesus Christ, let this be the spirit that animates me. If He says, “No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends” (John 15:15), let us accept the place of friends. “You are My friends if you do the things which I command you” (John 15:14).

    The one thing He commands us as His branches is to bear fruit. Let us live to bless others, to testify of the life and the love there is in Jesus. Let us in faith and obedience give our whole life to that for which Jesus chose us and to which He appointed us, fruit bearing. As we think of His electing us to this, and take up our appointment as coming from Him who always gives all He demands, we shall grow strong in the confidence that a life of fruit bearing, abounding and abiding, is within our reach.

    We shall understand why this fruit bearing alone can be the path to the place of all prevailing prayer. It is for the man who, in obedience to the Christ of God, is proving that he is doing what his Lord wills, that the Father will do whatsoever he will. “Whatsoever we ask we receive, because we keep His commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”

    Blessed Master, teach me to apprehend fully what I only partly realize, that it is only through the will of God, accepted and acted out in obedience to His commands, that we obtain the power to grasp His will in His promises and fully to appropriate them in our prayers. Teach me that it is along the path of fruit bearing that the deeper growth of the branch into the Vine can be perfected, and we attain to that perfect oneness with Thyself in which we ask whatsoever we will.

    O Lord, reveal to us, we pray Thee, how with all the hosts of heaven, and with Thyself the Son on earth, and with all men of faith who have glorified Thee on earth, obedience to God is our highest privilege, because it gives access to oneness with Himself in that which is His highest glory – His all-perfect will. Reveal to us, we pray Thee, how, in keeping Thy commandments and bearing fruit according to Thy will, our spiritual nature will grow up to the full stature of the perfect man, with power to ask and to receive whatsoever we will.

    O Lord Jesus, reveal Thyself to us, and the reality of Thy purpose and Thy power to make these Thy wonderful promises the daily experience of all who utterly yield themselves to Thee and Thy words. Amen.