The story goes that a friend once asked the famous theologian Martin Luther what his plans were for the following day. Luther is said to have replied something to the effect of, “Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”
Have you ever been so busy that in order to make it through the day, you just had to spend three hours in prayer? Yeah, me neither. What are you and I missing that Luther seemed to understand?
Jesus says in John 8:31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He expands on this idea of abiding in chapter 15. He says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” What is Jesus saying here, and in the verses that follow, about abiding in him?
First of all, we can see from Jesus’ metaphor of the vine and the branches that we, the branches, must stay connected with the life-giving, transformative power of the vine. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to bear any fruit. Just now the leaves outside are changing colors, and soon the trees will be bare. The stripped branches will brush at the grey sky all winter, until next spring the sap will begin to flow through the tree trunks; sometimes you can even see it dripping out of the side of the trees. The life shooting through the branches brings new life; fuzzy buds begin to form, almost as if by magic, then blossoms and leaves burst forth. The key is staying connected to the vine. This is not optional; verse 5 says that without this connection, we can do nothing. We don’t move from death to life.
Sometimes this process involves pruning in our lives. This can be painful, as the vinedresser surgically cuts sin out of our lives. But it’s ultimately for our benefit, it helps us grow, and it makes us more beautiful — that is, more like Christ. All we have to do is hang onto him.
How do we do that? Well, praying for three hours every day probably wouldn’t hurt! But more practically, abiding in Christ — staying connected to him — means trusting him, believing him, resting in him, and ultimately serving his kingdom — bearing fruit — for his glory. Prayer is a beautiful and powerful way to stay connected to Christ, as is loving and reading his word. He has given us these tools to stay in communication and relationship with him, and when we neglect them, we find ourselves withering for want of spiritual nourishment.
Jesus tells us how to determine if we are properly connected with him. He says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” You can’t truly and fully abide in Christ without showing love. It is first on Jesus’ every list.
Ultimately, all of this is aimed at one goal: glorifying God. We are utterly dependent on him for our very lives, and all beneficial fruit flowing out of our lives comes from him, and these are the things that point others to our great God. We can help each other in this, pressing each other to run the race, to stay connected, and maybe even — who knows? — to pray three hours a day!
Written By: Jess Upshaw Glass