For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1: 15-23
“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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:1-8
These two passages served as a foundation for a sermon of couple of weeks ago as our community spends time looking at prayer and its function in our community.
Scrawny to Brawny. Zero to hero. Nobody to Somebody. We don’t just like these stories, we thrive on them. Our entire culture is built on them. The weakling colonies take on the preeminent superpower in the world and win. Since then, we’ve thrived on the stories. Recent blockbusters like The Avengers series show this. We root for Captain America. A weak and scrawny nobody who saves the world. Dr. Bruce Banner is a tiny yet brilliant scientist who, when angry, becomes the Hulk. Nothing in America makes for a better story and a nobody becoming a somebody.
For the Christian, prayer is similar. It brings about in us a transformation that takes us from scrawny to brawny in our faith. When we pray, we begin to use God’s power and means in the world, something that is much bigger than ours (his incomparably great power for us who believe). By being a community of prayer, we acknowledge not only our dependency on God but his incomparably great power that empowers us to be change agents in the world.
When we look at the John 15 passage, we also see our need and dependency in prayer.
Jesus commands us to remain on the vine (himself) as he has remained in the father. This, for us, is found in prayer. By spending regular time connecting ourselves to God, we grow, like tomatoes, into strong healthy, fruit bearing individuals. But, disconnected from the vine, we wither, shrivel and die. We become rotten and lose our flavor and effectiveness in the world. We are diseased and rotting tomatoes, unfit to be used for anything.
What we see through these two passages in the two-fold power of prayer for the Christian. It 1) Keeps us rooted in Christ and able to bear fruit while simultaneously 2) Giving us access to God’s power that is at work in the world and join him in that transformation, redemption and Kingdom inauguration.
For Christians, prayer is much more than talking to the wall or amongst ourselves, it is our lifeblood by which we transform ourselves and the world.