I’ve always been challenged by John 15:7, in which Jesus states, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

If you’re anything like me, you come across verses like this and you think to yourself, “Well, that must be true because it’s in the Bible.” But then you have trouble really believing it. I think for most of us, if we really believed this verse, we would be more devoted to prayer and we would pray with a greater spirit of expectancy.

At the same time, be careful not to misunderstand what Jesus is saying her. Jesus isn’t giving us a blank check to ask for anything under the sun and be guaranteed to receive it. Instead, notice that Jesus qualifies his promise in two ways. First, he says, “If you abide in me….” So this promise is made to true believers who make it their daily practice to depend on him for nourishment and strength. Then Jesus adds, “…and my words abide in you.” That’s the second qualification. The people who can expect answered prayer are those who let Jesus’ words abide in them.

“My words” refers to everything Jesus taught during His earthly ministry, and I think it would be safe to assume that the rest of Scripture can be included here by implication as well. So, if we want our prayers to be answered, we have to make sure that we’re allowing God’s Word to fill our minds and direct us as we pray.

So, on the basis of this verse, here’s what I’ll call the anatomy of an effective prayer life:

  1. We immerse ourselves in the Bible. We read it on a regular basis, we memorize it, and we allow it to fill our minds throughout the day.
  2. The Bible transforms our desires. It leads us to pant for God like a deer pants for streams of water, it causes us to be committedto the Great Commission, and it makes us hunger and thirst after righteousness. The Bible takes our self-centered desires andtransforms them into God-centered desires.
  3. We begin to pray according to these new God-centered desires. Do you remember how Jesus says we can ask for “whatever we wish”? Well, if Jesus’ words in the Bible have transformed our desires, the things we “wish” will naturally be things that will bring glory to God and that are held up as important in the Bible.
  4. God gives us what we’ve asked for. We have a right to expect God to move in answer to our prayers.