When the first request came to contribute to Gentle Reformation, I counted the prospect quite a high privilege. With it, though, came a bit of the sensation of fear of heights. May the Lord give words that build up.
Much of what I relate will involve an attempt to give you a taste of my interaction with the believers I see each week in the chapel groups at four CA State Prison facilities near my home. I truly count it a matter of God’s grace toward me, that in these five years of full-time mission engagement, I have had weekly fellowship and co-labor there with believers few others get to see.
The virus crisis brought, at first (March 2020), long separation from face-to-face fellowship – sixty weeks in a row at all the facilities! Fellowship had to occur by correspondence. Even since then there have been medical lockout seasons, and the letter you’ll read below came from one of those.
Since it looks like I will not be able to come in for chapel services till at least the end of the month, I thought I would touch base again with a letter.
In our studies in the Gospel of John, we’ve been in the chapters that record what our Lord taught the night of his arrest, less than 24 hours before his crucifixion. We’ve mentioned a number of times that Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was next, when they would both bear witness of Him and face persecution without him being physically present. One of the striking things is that prayer is mentioned over and over again.
I know for my own part that I have much to learn about relating to God in prayer; and these words have encouragement. There is surely encouragement in Christ’s choosing to say the words…
John 14:13 … I will do whatever you ask in my name…
John 15:7 … ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:16 … whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
John 16:23 … my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name
John 16:23 … Ask and you will receive…
…so let’s explore how the context of those phrases explains what is being communicated. Read the context around each of those verses, and I believe you will see at least 4 important elements.
1. God the Father’s glory in Christ
2. Abiding in Christ
3. God’s will that his followers bear fruit
4. The joy of those who follow Christ
Those explanations are helpful, because we shouldn’t get the impression that the promise concerns any random things or comforts we might want. The promise has purpose in each of the four categories addressed.
1. Ephesians 3:20-21 assures us that God is overwhelmingly able to be revealed as glorious through his work in the lives of believers. When wondering what we can hope for, it is useful to reflect on what Scripture says makes His glory evident through redeeming us. For such things we may ask with the confidence Jesus is encouraging.
2. The chapter 15 context helps to define for us what kinds of things belong to the promise. When the requests proceed from union with Christ and a conscious dwelling in faith’s dependence on Him, the requests belong to the categories about which we are being encouraged.
3. All such things as the Scripture calls fruit for God belong to the right kind of requests. Self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, forbearance, peace, love, joy, trust, courage, perseverance, witness. These we may hope for.
4. And the last of the 4 is uniquely heartening. The Lord’s goals include joy for his people. From out of God’s bounty of grace, His redemption and all the prayers that serve it are FOR us, for our joy.
For my part, I realize I must (and can) learn to pray with more confidence, entrusting all the requests that fit the above categories to Him. You may pray for His glory and for fruit in your own life and in one another’s lives.
Lord, increase my faith.
Here is a portion of one response:
An encouraging thing about the above note comes from the words “as a new believer”. It is truly highest privilege to be involved in the life of someone the Lord has just recently called His own.