John 15:7-8

[see also the DoNotDepart page about these verses]

7. If you abide in me, and my word abides in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

This motif comes up several times in the gospels and the letters: ask for whatever you like and God will magic it up. On a naive reading it just sounds silly, and obviously not true. For example, I’m currently reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He seems to have been a sincere fervent and faithful Christian. It’s not difficult to imagine that at least some of his prayed requests went unmet.

Responses along the lines of, “if you don’t get what you ask for, that shows you didn’t have enough faith, weren’t abiding in Jesus enough, didn’t ask properly, etc.” are weak too.

I’m baffled as to why this kind of thing is said, unless it’s a motif that is expected in any religious text.

Any Christian readers: I’d be interested in your interpretations of this verse.

In the meantime what am I to do with it? Turning my nose up at it feels like being a spoilsport. I don’t just mean in the sense of hurting other people’s feelings, I also mean in the sense of spoiling what I’m doing myself.

ask whatever you wish

While I was learning these lines I read this blog post about someone’s anxiety over what to pray. It’s a very good piece. This phrase gives the faithful permission to be completely frank and open. There are no formulas, no right ways to pray or right things to ask for. Reading that post I thought: ‘Why not ask for all those bad things? Pray for all the things you want, “ask whatever you wish”: I wish we had a new house, I wish I had a better job, I’d like a walk-in wardrobe full of lovely dresses, … it might lead you somewhere interesting.’

it will be done for you

No. This part of praying has never made sense to me. Comments welcome.

8. By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

This I like :). By doing our thing and bearing fruit — children, works of art or science or engineering — we glorify God.

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  1. Ugh. This probably won’t be very helpful, but at least you’ll see you’re not alone. This is what I wrote in my journal earlier this week: “Ask ‘whatever’ and you’ll get it? But even the apostles surely didn’t get all they asked for. I don’t understand.” :(

    However, I still ask anyway. :) I’ll share some more later this afternoon at Do Not Depart. Waiting on my daughter to drive up any minute now! And it’s pouring down rain. My friend who has an outside wedding scheduled tonight is surely asking right now for God to stop this rain! For her sake I hope He answers this one…..

    • Thank you this is *very* helpful! It really is. I’ll think and pray more and write properly when I can (Monday).

  1. John 15:7 | Luke 7:39

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