Tag Archives: God

Prayer quotations and summary

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Open Heaven whiteFor those who have followed our series on prayer, I have put a summary of the links at the end of this page which also includes some statements on prayer from the masters.

“Prayer agrees with God’s word, and the heart agrees with our lips.”  John Newton

“Prayer is the great bond of union of Christendom; and not only of Christendom, but all mankind. Prayer is the most tangible proof of the fact that the whole of mankind is seeking after God; or – to put it more correctly – that it is sought by God. Mankind at prayer is a proof of the universal revelation of God.”  Friedrich Heiler

“Prayer is not man’s work, or discovery or achievement; but God’s work in man.” Friedrich Heiler

“Without prayer faith remains a theoretical conviction, worship is only an external and formal act, moral action is without spiritual depth, man remains at a distance from god, an abyss yawns between the finite and the Infinite.” Friedrich Heiler

“Prayer draws the great God down into a small heart; it drives the hungry soul up to God in His fullness” Mechthild of Magdeburg

“In prayer the highest and the lowest come together, the lowliest heart and the most exalted God.”     
Johann Arndt

“As the mysterious linking of man with the Eternal, prayer is an incomprehensible wonder, a miracle of miracles which is daily brought to pass in the devout soul.” Friedrich Heiler

“There is nothing more powerful than prayer and there is nothing to be compared with it.” Chrysostom

“Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray then, my dear brother; pray, pray, pray.”
Edward Payson

“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer…He that has prayed well has studied well.” Luther

“No man can do a great and enduring work for God who is not a man of prayer, and no man can be a man of prayer who does not give much time to praying.” E.M. Bounds

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” John Wesley

“If there is one thing I think the Church needs to learn, it is that God intends prayer to have an answer, and that man has not yet fully conceived of what God will do for the child who believes that his prayer will be heard. God hears prayer.” Andrew Murray

“The chief thing we need for a life of unceasing prayer is to know that Jesus teaches us to pray…Jesus’ teaching takes us up into the fellowship of His own prayer-life before the Father.” Andrew Murray

“Prayer is but man uttering to God what is God’s will.” Watchman Nee

“True prayer uncovers the emptiness in the petitioner but the fullness in the Petitioned…The state of one’s prayer life cannot be too greatly disconnected from the condition of his daily walk…Prayer is work. The experiences of many children of god demonstrate that it accomplishes far more than does any other form of work. If a believer fails in prayer, he in fact fails in everything.”     Watchman Nee

“As crucifixion proceeds, intercession begins.” Norman Grubb

“Prayer proves the supremacy of God in missions.” J. Piper

“So we pray because we were made for prayer, and God draws us out by breathing Himself in…And it comes to this, that, as there are thoughts that seem to think themselves in us, so there are prayers that pray themselves in us. And, as those are the best thoughts, these are the best prayers. For it is Christ at prayer who lives in us, and we are conduits of the Eternal Intercession.”
Forsyth

“Prayer is the highest use to which speech can be put. It is the highest meaning that can be put into words…The chief failure of prayer is its cessation.” Forsyth

“True prayer is the supreme function of the personality which is the world’s supreme product…The praying personality has an eternal value for God as an end in itself.” Forsyth

“Prayer is like the air of certain ocean isles, which is so pure that there vermin cannot live. We should surround ourselves with this atmosphere, as the diver shuts himself into his bell ere he descends into the deep.” Vinet

“The theory of religion is really the philosophy of prayer; and the best theology is compressed prayer. The true theology is warm, and it steams upward into prayer…The greatest, deepest, truest thought of God is generated in prayer, where right thought has its essential condition in a right will…Bible searching and searching prayer go hand in hand.” Forsyth

“In life it is not ‘dogged that does it’ in the last resort, and it is not hard work; it is faculty, insight, gift, talent, genius. And what genius does in the natural world prayer does in the spiritual. Nothing can give us so much power and vision.” Forsyth

“Prayer, as our greatest work, breeds in us the flair for the greatest work of God, the instinct of His kingdom and sense of His track in time…The only answer to God’s eternity is an eternal attitude of prayer.” Forsyth

“God has old prayers of yours long maturing by Him. What wine you will drink with Him in his kingdom…So if you are averse to pray, pray the more…As appetite comes with eating, so prayer with praying. Our hearts learn the language of the lips.” Forsyth

“Private prayer, when it is real action, is the greatest forge of personality. It places a man in direct and effective contact with God the Creator, the source of originality, and especially with god the Redeemer as the source of the new creation.”  Forsyth

“Prayer is for the religious life what original research is for science – by it we get direct contact with reality.” Forsyth

“It is an art – this great and creative prayer – this intimate conversation with God. ‘Magna ars est conversari cum Deo,’  “
Thomas à Kempis

Teaching links

1) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/prayer-the-aunty-nelly-factor/

2) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/prayer-o-when-the-saints/

3) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/prayer-dont-you-worry-child/

4) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/prayer-one-thing-is-needed/

5) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/prayer-nations-people-and-revival/

6) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/prayer-protecting-the-promise/

7) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/prayer-wisdom-protects-the-promise/

8) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/prayer-god-really-is-good/

9) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/prayer-is-god-asleep/

10) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/prayer-is-god-unjust/

Prayer – Is God asleep?

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GodAs we continue our prayer journey towards finding the right perspective of God, let’s move on to Luke 11. Again, Jesus is teaching on prayer and comes up with another striking little story. Like our first story this one is designed to expose the hidden views we have concerning God’s character especially in relation to prayer. Essentially we have a man in need coming to “his friend”, to ask for three loaves of bread. He is the archetype of all who come to God with their needs. However, in spite of his being a friend he gets a rather shocking reception !

“Don’t bother me.”

Deep down, do we sometimes harbour the image of God being like some high-powered business executive, rushing around running the world with no real-time for my prayers and concerns and my three little loaves of life!

“The door is already locked,”

Do you sometimes think that a “no entry” sign has been put up specifically over heaven for you ? Have sin, rejection and unbelief put barricades before heaven’s generosity? Has someone told you that you’ve no right to pray, as that is only the job of priests, holy men and the super spiritual ?

“..and my children are with me in bed.”

Well, here we have it. God is asleep in bed while the world hungers for bread !

How many have not sometimes found themselves pondering such thoughts. Communists and humanists load their guns with such ammunition. The famous communist playwright, Bertolt Brecht, wrote:

“Food is the first thing, morals follow on!”

God seems strangely absent from the world scene. Often we may have cried out to God and felt, perhaps, His absence. An absence that may well have wounded us deeply and left the way open for Satan’s bitter lies.wecantgetup

“I can’t get up and give you anything.”

Is God really as pathetic as this !

Better find some rich businessman to get things done or some mafia warlord as God, it seems,  is powerless !

The above is the exact opposite of who God is and a direct antithesis to the whole ethic and promise of prayer !

If you’ve ever believed this lie about Him you almost deserve to be breadless ! Such a blasphemous view of God and prayer is a pretty serious sin that needs repenting of. Jesus gently rebuked the father of the demonized boy in Mark 9: 23, when he weakly said,

” If you can ? “

We need to remember that he was speaking to the all-powerful Son of God ! ” If you can ? “ is just not good enough ! Jesus reminded him of the level of faith filled asking he was looking for.

“If you can ?” said Jesus.

” Everything is possible for him who believes “

Let us repent deeply of all the wrong views of God that are exposed in Jesus’ simple story. Like our concerned father, struggling with past failure and demonic lies, let us cry out :

” I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief ! “

Let us persevere, and be bold enough to walk through apparent contradictions by faith. Learn to laugh at Satan’s lies and attacks and hold firm on God’s generous giving nature. This is the ” persistence “ mentioned in the text. A persistence for a right perspective of God, not a superstitious persistence in dead works of unbelief.

The “boldness” and perseverance here is not to change God’s mind or somehow win Him over through good works or penance. It is simply our own inner perseverance and boldness needed to overcome the lies of the enemy which continually blaspheme God’s character to us. We must daily and boldly overcome such persistent demonic propaganda!

The original Greek word used for “boldness” here is anaideia, which literally means  “without shame”. When we think of the strong hospitality and shame culture present in these times we also get the same unimaginable image that we found in the evil father giving a stone. In Jesus’ culture it would have been just as unthinkable and horrendously impossible for someone to show such a lack of mutual support and hospitality to an asking friend.

As much as you needJesus, having exposed the lie and blasphemy of the enemy within, takes us firmly back into the truth of prayer and promise.

“I tell you..”

“So I say to you..”

“..he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

“Ask and it will be given to you;”

In this world where God’s image is constantly being blasphemed by the enemy’s works of death and destruction, aided and abetted by the our own passivity and feeble prayer doctrine, we need a bold generation who will hold firm in prayer, striving daily to maintain their high view of God and getting answer from heaven to meet the needs of  mankind.

The prayer of faith will always meet God’s provision. God is longing to find faith that receives as much as we need and hearts that dare to ask.

So…..how much do you need ?

Prayer – God really is good

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is-god-goodThe ongoing ideology around us and overwhelming media coverage of death and suffering are constantly challenging the image of a good God. Like the proud beast in Revelation 13:6, Satan’s strategy is to constantly undermine the character and goodness of God.

“He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling-place and those who live in heaven.”

We are almost deafened by the cries – carried often on the wings of our own cruel suffering and loss,  that God is somehow nasty, asleep, unfair and uncaring.  We are constantly challenged to push against this prevailing blasphemy and find the true perspective of God’s love. This is the heart of spiritual warfare as we battle against a wrong perception and experience of who God really is. To pray successfully we need to be healed of this wrong perception and gain fresh revelation of God’s ultimate goodness and willingness to answer prayer on our behalf.

Satan’s strategy is to deform our perception of God, and slander Him to us thus destroying our faith and vitality.

From childhood authority figures, from teachers to parents to political and religious leaders, are sometimes abusive and mould deep within our beings a wrong conception of God.

Jesus himself recognised this truth in his own teaching on prayer, so let’s learn from the master. It is important to note that, as a good teacher, Jesus exposed the wrong conceptions in the hearts of his listeners before replacing them with the radical truth of God’s grace. Certain phrases are repeated over and over again in Christ’s teaching as he juxtaposes our erroneous conceptions with the truth concerning his Father. It is important to grasp these “leitmotifs” as they lead us on the path to a genuine vision of God’s greatness and love. Phrases like, “How much more”, “So I say to you”, and “And will not God”, open the texts up to comparisons between human and heavenly perspectives.

I’ll limit myself to three specific texts of Jesus concerning prayer but we could find many more as well as finding overlaps in the epistles. Jesus lays down a foundation for prayer in Matthew 7 :7-11, Luke 11 :1-13 and Luke 18 :1-8. We will study these passages in the next posts.generations

In Matthew, Jesus is giving his disciples the key to prayer. Thinking back perhaps to his own commissioning in Psalm 2 : 7,

“You are my Son; Today I have become your Father.”

where the element of “sonship” was so important.

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven…”   Matthew 6 :9

He hammers the message home even more strongly in chapter 7, and I imagine him being quite humorous in his style, using everyday family images which would touch a chord in each heart. His longing is to heal his hearers of a wrong concept of Fatherhood.

“Ask and it will be given to you.”is the wonderfully frank truth of scripture. However in a world of hard knocks the hearers minds are already putting up barriers and get out clauses in a wounded, knee jerk response to such a generous theology. Jesus, however, is already one step ahead of them.

“Which of you , if his son asks for bread , will give him a stone ?”

Little Johnny, hungrily expectant at the dinner table, is suddenly summoned to the garden by his Dad. Grabbing his son by the hair he pulls him forward and rams a dirt covered stone down his throat !

“Here son, chew on that ! It’ll do you good !”

Next Friday he’s there again at the table looking forward to a promise of fish and chips when suddenly he is summoned once again to the garden. ( Remember Jesus was speaking to a middle eastern audience who had much more exotic things in their gardens than slugs and lettuce !). There stands his Father with a nasty snake which he quickly puts to his son’s tender mouth. Poisonous fangs await to do their damage. Other options on the menu include scorpions with a vicious sting in the tail ! (See Luke 11:12)

“Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake ?” 

By now you can almost imagine Jesus’ audience, amused and yet slightly enraged at such an ungenerous Father, wanting to butt in and say something more positive about Fatherhood. Jesus, having gotten them thinking in the right direction, beats them to it:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

stoneHas our view of God been so warped that we think he will give us something hard like a stone ? Many, like the servant in the parable of the talents, think of God as being a “hard man”. Many of my Catholic friends here in France have a view of two ways to God. The hard way through God the stern Father, and the easy way via Mary.

Even in more evangelical circles there is often the hidden fear that God’s will for me will be something hard and horrible ! Deep down are we afraid of obeying God? Are we fearful of getting too involved in prayer, in case He might actually speak to us ? Do we think he has prepared something for us with a nasty sting in the tail ? The devil lies to us and perverts the truth of God’s love by filling us with fear.

Jesus goes to the heart of this fear and unbelief by gently bringing it to the surface in His example of the evil Father. He exposes such a concept for the demonic lie it is and unequivocally asserts the truth of God’s Fatherly care. His words carry the balm of healing and restore the image of God the Father in the hearts of His hearers.

Perfect love casts out fear ! Meditate on Christ’s words and enable Him to free you from your own deep-seated fears in order to be able to receive the faith to pray aright to a loving heavenly Father who longs to give good gifts to his children.

 

Prayer – Nations, People and Revival

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jointheclubx-largeFollowing on from Boaz’s promise in the last post we can now join the 41414 club. What’s that? It is a select group of people who hold on to the promise of the 4th Gospel, Chapter 14, Verse 14:

“You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.”

So what do we ask for?

We have already seen that we do not have to waste time praying for ourselves or our stuff – we do not pray “like pagans” striving with “many words” or “running after things,”  but we simply seek our Father King who “knows what we need.” We should learn to avoid Self/Sin centred praying as well. Too many prayer hours are wasted in telling God how awful we are! There is obviously a place for confession and genuine – not just spoken, repentance but when we read the basic model prayer the Lord gave us we find there are a lot more things to begin with. Seek the Father, seek the King, seek His will, receive bread…and then, before launching into the spiritual warfare of overcoming temptation and evil, you get forgiven and forgive others. Here are three major thrusts for our prayers to rise upon.

Nations

Psalm 2:8, building on the promise of sonship, and giving a Messianic root to Jesus’ prayer promise above, clearly encourages us to open up our prayer window onto the world and pray for nations.

“Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

True prayer is initiated in a strong missional thrust. Prayer allows the Church to participate in the missio Dei.

Nations prayer Click on the photo left to find a fantastic resource to help you pray for nations. As you watch the news, refuse to be overwhelmed by the Godless, negative information overload about various tragedies across the world, but carry the situations that touch your heart to the Lord in prayer.

Praying for nations may well change your lifestyle and take you quickly into the realm of intercession – but that is another article in the waiting.

People

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

You can pray for “everyone.” Wonderful! Try and enthuse your prayer by picking up God’s longing and strong desire that “all men be saved” through hearing the truth of the Gospel. Rather than wasting controversial hours on debating or philosophising about who is “lost,” fill your heart with compassion for the crowds and pray the Lord of the harvest to mobilise active evangelists. Many people have the time to moan about their leaders – but who takes the time to groan for them in prayer? Are you a moaner or a groaner?

Verse 8 in the same passage brings the same challenge – instead of getting hot under the collar we need to get on our knees.

“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”

We would have far less divisions in church and society if we learnt to lift our hands in prayer rather than making fists.

Revivallatter-rain-of-the-holy-spirit

The ordinary trials and little prayers of everyday life pave the way to great spiritual revival.

James’ practical epistle illustrates this principle. In chapter 5:13-20, he talks about prayer and mentions the great prophet Elijah. We see this great prophet opening the heavens with his earnest prayer – his cry for physical rain mirroring our own cries for spiritual rain on the barren lands and hearts of this world.

“Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” v.18

The prophet Zechariah encourages us to:

“Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime – (in the time of the latter rain)…” Zechariah 10:1

“I could never be an Elijah,” we think, “I’ve got too many troubles, and I can’t even get rid of this runny nose!”

Well, such struggles with weakness are the first battles for revival. “Elijah was a man just like us…” v.17

And from the beginning of James’ teaching we see that our very ordinary struggles take us on a journey towards prayerful victory.

 “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick?” v.13-14

The key to being successful on this journey is Community leading us to righteousness. True prayer for revival is community based and will lead us to mutual accountability and righteousness. So many verses here call us to community:

“He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” v.14

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” v.16

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” v.19-20

We are called to spur one another on to integrity and righteousness. We cannot pray beyond our personal and corporate degree of righteousness. We cannot pray big prayers and live little lies together.  An envisioned, truthful, prayer community is a powerful tool for revival. Community builds faith – “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” v.15. Community is a practical outworking of our personal justification. You may feel weak, but push through into praying for nations, people and an open heaven.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” v.17

 

 

 

Prayer – One thing is needed…

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“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Luke 10:39

“Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.  In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.” Ruth 3:8

At Jesus feetThe previous article on prayer encouraged us not to worry, and this one begins with the same exhortation of Jesus himself as he is confronted with the hustle and bustle of Martha’s desperate ministry! Like many of us, Martha is “worried and upset by many things.”  Jesus calms her down and shows her the importance of simply focusing on “one thing.”

We need to discipline ourselves to find the “priority position” to take in our lives. We must find “what is better” and what lasts forever – our intimate relation with Jesus, the ultimate kinsman redeemer. It is a place of listening to His word – a place of obedience and submission. Mary found this place at Jesus’ feet. Ruth, at the feet of Boaz, also gives us some beautiful insight into this priority position of prayer. Let’s take a quick journey into Chapter three of the book of Ruth.

“My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?” Ruth 3:1

We find identity and a home with Jesus.  Relation with him is where all true provision begins.clothed in love

“Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes.” Ruth 3:3

Confess and repent of your sins, washed in the cleansing blood of Jesus. May the incense of prayer and worship arise from our contrite hearts and may we clothe ourselves with the fruit of the Spirit and with power from on high.

Colossians 3:12-14, gives us a whole wardrobe of “best clothes”. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience…and the “overalls” of love!

“Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” Ruth 3:9

How we need the garment of grace to approach our Lord. This is not our own garment but it is given to us freely. As Christ spread out his loving arms on the cross to embrace fallen humanity, so he extends his individual grace to each of us and clothes us in his righteousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

remb_ruth_boazThere is a wonderful promise attached to the place of prayer. It is a “leitmotif” which runs throughout the Bible and which we will look at in the following studies. It is the wonderful promise of provision and answer which Ruth hears through the affectionate, intimate words of Boaz:

“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask.”  Ruth 3:11

and which we, modern Ruths, like Jesus’ own disciples, also hear.

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  John 14:14

Sin boldly…not badly

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“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”               1 John 2:1-2

All the good news of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given us so that “we will not sin.”
…but…
we, flawed people, live in an imperfect world and we have to survive the many contradictions and challenges of life.
…so…
Sin boldly not badly!
Let’s learn some lessons in life from Martin Luther…
“If you are a preacher of Grace, then preach a true, not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life in not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. . . . Pray boldly-you too are a mighty sinner.” (Weimar ed. vol. 2, p. 371; Letters I, “Luther’s Works,” American Ed., Vol 48. p. 281- 282) 
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“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”   
Food_Fun_FellowshipNow…I’m not encouraging you to alcoholism…and I deeply respect teetotal cultures. Just be real, not too self-righteous, and overcome the enemy with grace, laughter, fellowship and joy.
And another similar quote to finish…
If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”
On the day of the Feast of St. Peter the Apostle, 1521

Bud or Branch?

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

We all get the chop sometime!grapeVines

This well-known passage begins with very good news, and then adds some less encouraging truth.

The good news is that every unfruitful piece of your life, your unbelief, pride, fear, rejection, and sinfulness will all be “cut off” in Christ’s vicarious death on the cross.

The less than exciting news is that your good fruitful works will also be cut back to prepare a new season of fruitfulness.

Many people never get beyond the first phase. Christian life for them revolves around a never-ending, sin centred ritual of personal survival, where they are constantly confessing and committing sin. Both inner and outer fruitfulness is sadly lacking in such a life which hangs on to a minimum level of grace but never actually produces Christ honouring fruit. It is a dangerous place to be as the longevity of such a faith is always in doubt and, as John the Baptist said in Luke 3:9:

“The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

We are all called to bear fruit

Fruit in handThe normal Christian experience must be to cultivate the inner, Christ like fruit of the Spirit as well as to impact the world around us with fruitful ministry.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” John 15:16

How is this working out in your own life? Perhaps you are at the beginning of your Christian life, the sap is rising and there is great promise for future fruit. Or you may be in the midst of a fruitful time of gathering and growing. Whatever your age, you must have a testimony of fruit. If you’ve read this and feel convicted by a lack of fruit in your life…don’t despair! The very conviction you feel is a sign that the sap is still in you. Make a decision to turn away from every barren thing in your life and get back into the Word of God and worship. Nurture the soil of your heart and fill it afresh with the living seed of Christ. Fruit will follow…

Seasons of pruning

For many, you will have produced fruit in the past but may be feeling the hard cut of the blade as years of fruitful ministry seem to be swept away leaving you with nothing to show. Perhaps after a dynamic start you have encountered a “dark night of the soul”, and find it hard to get close to God. Trials and testings may have eaten away at the fabric of faith while relational breakdown may also have cut in on the fruit of forgiveness.

The works of many years may need to be passed over to others. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 2:21, found this a grievous thing:

“For a man may do his work with wisdom knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it.”

Persecution and trouble may also have ended the fruitful work of years in an instant.

As I said at the beginning, pruning will come to us all. How do you survive a season of pruning?pruning close up

The main thing is getting your perspective right. Let me explain.

I lived for many years in the South of France so had the first hand experience of living amongst vineyards. When the vine is pruned, its gangling branches, which have borne the grapes, are cut right back to the vulnerable infant bud which is so near the original gnarled vine.

So what is your perspective? Are you a branch or a bud? In our success orientated world we are so used to comparing our branches and grapes. No-one seems interested in a little bud.

Do you see your personal identity in the branch or the bud?

bud_breakThe branches are our works but the bud is our intimacy with Christ. Cultivate intimacy and you will come through the pruning with a renewed energy to grow again. Stay close to the True Vine and find your value and identity in the simple love relation with Jesus.

Someone once said:

“I am successful because I am loved by Christ and can love Him in return.”

He must have been a “bud” to say that!

 

Tears and dryness

When a vine is cut back it “bleeds” profusely. Sugary saps leaks out from the broken branches for days. When the “tears” stop, a desert time begins when the branch will “dry back” to the bud.

In the same way, leave time for the bereavement, the seasons of tears followed by the times of dryness. This natural process is preparing the way for a new season.

Indeed, may we all end up, “even more fruitful” bringing glory to our Father.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8