The power we have in prayer depends largely on the kind of life we lead, and the relationship we have with God. When I come into prayer for matters of areas where my life is right, I know how to pray, so that I am pleasing to God and my prayer secures the answer. In this area, there is a sureness in my praying stemming from boldness in my approach to God. As St. John says, we can only have confidence in God if our hearts do not condemn us. In other words, that we can only receive whatsoever we ask when we obey and please God with our lives (cf. 1 John 3:21-22). And the Lord Jesus tells us to abide in Him and to let His words abide in us so that whatever we ask should be done unto us (cf. John 15:7).
I understand, then, that if there is any lack of power in my praying aright and perseveringly or a lack of power in my prayer with God, it is because there is something lacking in my Christian life. It is only as I learn to live a life pleasing to God – living the authentic Christian life – that He will give that what I ask of Him. The parable of the vine and its branches teaches that one who has a healthy, vigorous life is the one who may ask and receive what he/she desires. But I must remember that it is not I who chose Him, but He who chooses me and appoints me to go and bear fruit that will remain; so that whatever I ask the Father in His Name He may give me (cf. John 15:16).
Living the Branch-Life
The life that one must lead in order to bear lasting fruit and receive what one wills in prayer, is the branch-life, which gives the power for prayer. If you wish to be that one, you must become a branch of Christ, who is the living Vine. As a branch, you live abiding in Him, so that you ask what you will and it is done unto you. As Branch, you are simply an outward growth of the Vine, having been produced by the Vine and appointed by the Vine to bear that fruit. You have only one reason for existence; that at the bidding of the Vine, and through you, the Vine bears and ripens His fruits.
In nature, the vine lives only, wholly and exclusively to produce sap that makes grapes. The branch has no other objective but to receive that sap and bear the grape. The branch lives to serve the vine, so that through it the vine may do what it does best – bear grapes. The Christian is a branch of Christ, the heavenly Vine. As Christian, you live only so that Christ may bear fruit through you. You must be just as absorbed in and devoted to the work of bearing fruit to the glory of God, as Christ the Vine was while on earth, and now is, in heaven.
It is to you in this form as Branch, that the unlimited prayer promises of the parable of the vine are given. It is this branch-life that exists solely for the Vine that has the power to pray aright. The grace to pray aright and the much-needed faith to receive whatsoever you wish is there only when your life is abiding in Him. It will be there when His words are abiding, being kept and obeyed in your heart and life. And it will be there with all these transmuting into your very being.
The Lord’s Covenantal Promises to the Branch
Consider the promises in the Lord’s farewell discourses, where He repeatedly uses words such as ‘anything’ (John 14:14), ‘whatever’ (John 14:13 & John 15:7), ‘whoever’ (John 14:23-24). These words seem altogether a tad too big to be taken literally; so, we tend to dress them down in order to meet our human ideas of what appears to be the more likely case. We choose to separate these words from the very life of absolute and unlimited devotion to the Lord’s service to which they were given. We also forget that the Lord’s covenant is a ‘give-all’ and ‘take-all’ covenant to ‘whoever’ wills to be wholly branch and places himself/herself wholly at the disposal of the Vine, in order that He may bear fruit through this particular one.
It is this one who lives every moment only for Him, who receives divine liberty to claim the Lord’s ‘whatsoever’ in all its fullness and obtain divine wisdom and humility to use it aright. It is this one who lives and prays to claim the Father’s promises just as the Lord Jesus did, and this only for the glory of God in the salvation of souls. It is expected that this one’s boldness in prayer is for the intention to power intercession and to get people blessed. Thus this one should have unlimited devotion such as that which the branch-life has to fruit-bearing. This one must remain inseparable to the unlimited access to the treasures of the Vine-life. This one must be a life abiding wholly in the Lord Jesus so as to pray the effectual prayer in the mighty Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Examples of Efficacious Intercession in the Bible
In Abraham’s intercession for Sodom (cf. Genesis 18:16-33), we see a boldness of one who knew that God had chosen and called him away from his home and his people, to walk before God so that all nations might be blessed in him. Abraham knew he had the favour of God. He had done what God had asked of him and he dared to trust the Lord God to do that which he dared to ask of God.
Moses is another intercessor who also had forsaken all for God by considering the reproach of the Anointed to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt (cf. Hebrews 11:26). He lived at God’s disposal, remaining faithful in all Israel and doing all according to that what the Lord God commanded (cf. Exodus 40:16 & Leviticus 8:4). Thus, he was very bold because his heart was right with God, and he knew God would hear him!
Speaking of boldness, Joshua dared to ask the Lord God that the sun should stand still at Gibeon and the moon in the valley of Aijalon… surprise, surprise; God sure did (cf. Joshua 10:12-14)! How about Elijah, who called down fire from heaven, not once (1 Kings 18:38) but again! (2 Kings 1:9-12). These accounts teach us that one who is ready to risk all for God can count upon God to do all for him/her!
If, with wholehearted devotion, you were to give up all for God and to God, you too can claim all from God. The Lord God exceedingly longs to prove Himself as the Faithful God and Mighty Helper of His people. He waits for hearts that are wholly turned from the world unto Him and that are open to receive His gifts. In order to find all, you must be ready to lose all. Then you may dare to ask Him and take that which He gives; take up the cross and truly follow Him (cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 & Luke 9:23).
If you have not yet attained such a full devotion, know that every new onward step is taken toward striving after the perfect branch-life, and any surrender made to live for others in intercession will be met from above with equivalent liberty to draw nearer with greater boldness and expectation of larger answers. The more you pray the more conscious you become of your un-fit prayer-power. However, the more shall you be urged and helped to press on towards the secret of power in prayer—branch-life.
On being grafted to Him
If you are wondering why you have so far not attained this simple and yet so mighty blessed branch-life and how you could get there, simply go back to the parable of the Vine. The Lord Jesus refers to Himself as the true vine and speaks of God the Father as the vine grower (cf. John 15:1). The glorified Son of God is here in His divine Fullness. From Him, we draw the fullness of life. The Father who watches over us as we abide, grow and bear fruit in the Vine is also here. The trick is to maintain union with Christ. It is God the Father, who unites us with Him, makes sure this branch is what it should be and thus enables you to bring forth just the fruit you are appointed to bear. The Lord Jesus says that the Vinedresser cleanses the branches by taking away every branch that does not bear fruit, and pruning every one that does so that it should bear even more fruit (cf. John 15:2).
Every Branch must be pruned to bear fruit
Now, go back to nature and see the vine as the one plant that produces fruit from which spirit can be so abundantly distilled. Yet it is also a plant that is so ready to grow into wildwood such that its pruning and cleansing become so essential. The vinedresser ensures that every year the great work of pruning the branch is done so that the vine is able to bear fruit that particular year. The branch that desires to abide in Christ and bring forth much fruit so as to be able to ask whatsoever it will, must trust in and yield itself to this divine cleansing.
The vinedresser’s pruning-knife cuts away woods produced by the branch, which otherwise draw away the strength and life of the vine, and hinder the flow of the juice to the grape. As more wood is cut down in the branch, more sap goes to the grape. Thus, the wood of the branch must decrease if fruit for the vine may increase. Death (of the wood) is then the way to Life (for the grape). The gain of the sap flowing into the grape comes through the sacrifice of the rich and luxuriant growth of wood that is cut off and cast away. This assures that more abundant life is seen in the cluster.
The same happens in you, who is as a branch of the heavenly Vine. Whatever appears absolutely innocent and legitimate and yet is so effective in drawing out your interest and draining your strength, must be pruned and cleansed away. If you want power in prayer, it will cost you. The cost will range from separation from your surroundings to drawing you from any trust in yourself, and to seeking your life in Him alone. Your own will, strength, effort and pleasure will be cut down, even when they seem perfectly natural and sinless. The cutting-down allows the whole energies of your being to be set free and open to receiving the sap of the Heavenly Vine (i.e. the Holy Spirit) so that you bear much fruit.
The Pruning Word of God
The pruning-knife is the word which the Lord Jesus speaks to us (cf. John 15:3). This is that word of God which is sharper than any two-edged sword and which pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit. Those words were spoken on love, humility, being least and like Him, being the servant of all, denying the self, taking the cross, losing the life. Through these words, the Father cleanses us, cuts away all confidence in the self or in the world, and prepares us for the inflowing and infilling of the Spirit of the Heavenly Vine.
It is not possible for us to cleanse ourselves; we must confidently entrust ourselves to the care of God, the Vinedresser. We must cast ourselves upon God that He may do in us that which is impossible to man. We must count upon His divine cleansing to cut down and take away all that self-confidence and self-effort which has been the cause of our past prayer failures. The good news is that you do not have to do anything with your own strength and of your own making. God, who gave you His beloved Son to be your Vine, and who made you His branch, will do His work of cleansing to make you fruitful in every good work including prayer and intercession.
Adapted from “Standing in the Gap – An Invite to Minister as Intercessor” by Dr. Pamela M. Idenya