From childhood, we have all heard stories of a genie who would offer three wishes to his master. The protagonist was always cautioned to take care in making wishes, because he might get what he wants, along with the consequences.
The key to effective prayer is to know what to ask: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 Jn 5:14). Knowing what to ask requires, first of all, that we know “His will” as He reveals it in His word.
The first condition in John 15:7 is “if you remain in me”; this is the translation of the verb meaning “to dwell, or live” in the aorist tense, meaning a completed, permanent fusion. The surrounding text uses the metaphor of the believer being grafted into the Vine (Jesus is the Vine; Jn 15:1) in an inseparable union, with His life flowing to us, the branches. If we have been bonded together with Christ in salvation, His Spirit flows in us enabling us to think and to be like Jesus (Phil 2:5).
The second condition, “and my words remain in you,” is the prerequisite of knowing the will of God, which is the basis for effective prayer. The verb is the same permanent bonding between our heart and Jesus’s teachings. The Spirit grafts His word into our minds and hearts. Our thoughts and dreams no longer are about our selfish aspirations. His values, priorities, principles, and commands become our guides to think and plan about what God desires.
If we know His will by diligently studying His word and asking for His intervention accordingly, then “we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 Jn 5:15). Just as the antennae of any powerful radio transmitter must be cut to the precise length to permit the maximum transmission, so we are responsible to mold our lives according to the values, principles, and commands of God’s word—-His frequency. It is then possible to think as He thinks and desire what He desires. Do we really want to be that close to God? Remember: somewhere in the shadows of His will is a cross.
“I understand, dear Lord, that I can only know what to ask as I pray if I am inseparably bonded to You and Your word. Help me learn to think as You do, so it will become clear what I should ask for.”