Exegesis and grammatical analysis.
Probably two things that will put the normal person to sleep. Yet doing exegesis and analyzing grammar are what W. Bingham Hunter does in the final chapter of his book The God Who Hears.
Exegesis is the critical interpretation of scripture.
Grammatical analysis is breaking down sentences into parts. When I was younger, we did something in English class that teachers don’t do anymore; we diagrammed sentences. Finding verbs, subjects, objects, phrases and dependent clauses was not a popular activity for most students.
But zeroing in on John 14-16 is important for Hunter because he wants to explore the meaning of praying in the name of Jesus or God.
As people of prayer, it is important for us to feel we can ask for Divine Help and receive Divine Help. John 15:7 says “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you.”
I am not going to bore you with detailed exegesis or grammatical analysis but when I really think about the sentence I quoted above, the part “ask whatever you wish…”, it sounds awfully good…until you look at the first part of the sentence.
There is the catch.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you.”
What does this word abide mean? When you see the word “if” it means that something will happen “if” something else happens first. If implies a condition.
What do we have to do to get the prayer results we want?
Hunter says it means we have to obey the teachings of Jesus and Hunter says it is “volitional.” At the risk of getting too analytical, volitional means that we make a thoughtful choice to commit to a particular course of action. We want to obey the teachings of Jesus; we want to obey the commandments of The Lord. This is not coerced. It is our desire.
When Jesus says that His words abide in us, He is really saying we have made a commitment to being connected with our Holy Father. John Stott is quoted in Hunter as saying “It is only when Christ’s words abide in us that our prayers will be answered. Then we can ask what we will and it shall be done, because we shall will only what He wills.”
In the previous months of discussion on prayer, I have commented on Hunter’s idea that an effective petitioner is one who understands that God’s will be done, not our own. What Stott is saying is that the more we are connected to God, the more we will understand what to pray. We literally begin to think thoughts that are more acceptable to God because we begin to understand how to relate to our Holy Father.
It is all about obedience.
Look at John 15:16. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name.”
This verse makes the bearing of “fruit” something that you must do before your prayers are answered.
One can turn to Galatians 5:22 and read that the fruit that we must bear is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.” When Jesus talks about fruit, He is talking about something that is created through obedience to God. God is the vine; we are the branches. We can bear fruit, but it does not happen just because we are branches. We have to be connected to the life-giving support of the vine. In short, we are dependent on the God vine for our ability.
With a little “exegesis” and a little “grammatical analysis” it becomes clear that to get what we want in prayer, it takes a connection. Digging a little deeper, that connection depends on our obedience to God. Taking it further, connection is a choice; it is what we desire.
My next post will be centered on obedience, the prayer-obedience relationship which is central to our ability to pray to our Father.
As I wrap up W. Bingham Hunter’s “The God Who Hears”, the next book that will be considered will be Bill Hybel’s “Holy Discontent”.