If you’ve been around the Bible for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that you can read a passage and learn something one day and then—a day, or a week, or even years later—you can read it again and discover something entirely different.
That’s what happened to me with John 15.
You know the scene. Jesus is with his disciples, his closest companions on earth. He’s washed their feet, celebrated the Passover meal, and told them about the Holy Spirit and what he would do. He has much more to say, but he knows his time’s growing short. He will, in fact, be arrested later that night.
Jesus chooses his words carefully.
“If you remain in me,” he says, “and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
I’d read those words countless times, but it suddenly hit me: Not only was Jesus making an incredible promise in inviting us to ask for “whatever” we want, but out of all the topics in the universe that he could have covered, he chose to drill down on prayer.
Think about it. He’s with his inner circle—the guys he’s chosen to follow him, to learn from him, and ultimately to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus could have taught them how to preach a really good three-point sermon. He could have doubled down on what it took to heal people. He could have talked about turning water to wine, or circled back to what might have been his most popular miracle, feeding 5,000 people from a single lunch box.
But no. Jesus doesn’t cover any of these “how to” topics. Instead, he focuses on how abiding—how dwelling in him, and letting his words dwell in us—can, and should, impact how we pray.
Christ’s Model for Prayer
I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of years thinking that prayer was basically a one-way conversation where I would ask God for what I thought would be good and then see what happened. If my relationships or my circumstances lined up with my requests, I would know that God said “yes.” And if not, he said “no.” I didn’t begrudge God when he turned me down (I knew verses like Isaiah 55:9 and that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours), but I much preferred it when I’d put in a prayer and get the answer I wanted.
I liked it when prayer worked like a vending machine.
But that’s not how Jesus sees prayer. As we see in the Lord’s prayer, he puts relationship ahead of results: When Jesus tells us to call God “our Father,” he invites us to experience a whole new level of access and intimacy. Now, in John 15, he calls us to come even closer. To connect.
Christ’s model for prayer is based on attachment. On abiding. On the idea that if we remain in him and allow his words to soak into our soul—not just shaping our desires but even creating them—we can pray with the full and wholehearted expectation that God will answer.
Here’s how this works:
The more we dig into Scripture, letting the words we read penetrate our thoughts and shape our perspective, the more our longings start to reflect what God already wants to do.
The more our prayers line up with his plans.
The more we position ourselves to be people of impact.
We see this dynamic played out over and over again in the pages of Scripture, in places like Psalm 1:2-3. “Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord [that is, in God’s Word] and who meditates on it day and night. That person,” the psalmist writes, “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” Soaking up God’s word equips us to be fruit-bearing people.
God wants us to bear fruit. Much fruit. And delighting in his Word—letting it dwell in us and give shape to our desires and requests—can open the door to a harvest of answered prayer that extends beyond anything that we could have imagined.
Lay the Track Down
One year, for example, I decided to pray 2 Peter 1:2 on behalf of one of my dearest prayer partners. She is a woman whose zeal for life is almost unmatched—she lives big, you might say—and the word abundance in that verse caught my eye. “May grace and peace be hers in abundance,” I prayed over this friend, again and again.
What I didn’t know—again, what I couldn’t have known—was that she would come up against some incredible challenges in her workplace that year, including rumors and lies that eventually led to her leaving her job. Had my friend not been thoroughly covered in God’s grace and peace, the fear and anxiety that tried to capture her heart during that difficult season might have succeeded. As it was, she weathered a six-month-long storm and, when she came out of the darkness, she found herself in a new job, one that was far more fulfilling (and financially rewarding) than anything she could have imagined.
I was asking God for abundance. He was willing to provide that—and he did—but he knew my friend would need his grace and peace even more.
And here’s the thing about praying the scriptures. We don’t do the blessing, the healing, the providing, the protecting. That’s God’s job. Our job is simply to be the conduit for his power. The branch, to use John 15 terminology, through which the sap can flow.
Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian writer, put it like this: “Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.”
Let’s lay the track down.
God’s Word Has Us Covered
Stories like the one about God providing grace and peace for my friend—long before she knew she’d be out of work for a while—should not come as a surprise. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” And when we pray prayers birthed out of time spent in Scripture—when Christ’s words remain in us and animate our desires—we tap into a power that goes beyond what our mind can conceive. God’s Word, says Isaiah 55:11, always accomplishes his purposes!
Not only that, but when we use Scripture as a launching pad for our prayers, we never run out of material. Our health, our friendships, our jobs, our families, our finances—all of these things (and so many more) are covered in the pages of the Bible. They matter to God! There is not a need we will face, a concern we will have, a relationship we’ll want to navigate that God has not already thought of—and provided for—in his word.
Effective time management? “Teach us to number our days so that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
Dealing with things like worry and fear? “Let us not be anxious or afraid, but instead cast our anxieties on you, knowing that you care for us.” (1 Peter 5:7)
Being kinder, or more big-hearted, toward others? “Prompt us to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18)
And we discover the security of knowing that we are Christ’s disciples. That we are part of God’s family. That we belong.
Those are just a few of the Scripture-based prayer prompts we find in the Bible. But the best part about praying this way isn’t just the John 15:7 promise that we can ask for whatever we want. The best part is that when we respond to Christ’s invitation—remaining in him, and letting his words remain in us—we get to live out John 15:8:
We bring glory to God.
We become productive, fruit-bearing people.
Call to Action Item:
In Jodie Berndt’s new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Life, she invites readers to think and pray biblically about 31 different needs and concerns, from relationships to finances to finding freedom from worry and fear. Want a sneak peek? Bible Source for Women readers can access Jodie’s “Five for Five” video devotions here.
Jodie Berndt has written or co-authored many books, including the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series for Children, Teens, and Adult Children. She and her husband, Robbie, have four adult children and live in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Find Jodie’s blogs, videos, and printable prayer resources at jodieberndt.com or follow her on Instagram at @jodie_berndt.