“Aladdin” the movie came out when I was in second grade. I remember leaving the movie theater and asking myself, “what would I do if I had three wishes from a genie?” I probably would have wished for tons of money, a Super Nintendo, and to be the best baseball player ever.
There’s a danger of coming to John 15 with these thoughts in our mind. As Jesus teaches that he is the vine and we are the branches, he says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
Aha! We’ve found the magic lamp! Jesus will do for us whatever we wish! Let’s start praying!
Then comes the disappointment: I prayed for “x” but it never happened. In fact, “y” happened instead. Faced by this contradiction, we are forced to make one of two decisions about God: 1) either we didn’t have enough faith and didn’t pray hard enough to make our wishes acceptable to God or 2) these words are a lie and God doesn’t have power to grant wishes, or even worse, God doesn’t exist.
But Jesus is not a genie from a magic lamp. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.
Here’s the catch. I think that the key to understanding this promise is to read it in light of the whole passage. See, if we start praying and wishing for things that selfish, that we really aren’t yet abiding in God, we aren’t yet branches from the vine. We aren’t praying “thy will be done” but “my will be done.” God is God, not Santa Claus or a magic genie.
Once we abide in God we start praying and wishing for the things that only abide with God’s will. These are the prayers and wishes that are accomplished by God. Before all else, we are to abide in Jesus, just as Jesus abides in the Father. Then, and only then, are we to wish in Jesus’ name.
All in all, this is a question of formation. If we are still praying for the things we want, then God has some more pruning to do. And let’s be honest, that pruning may hurt as we lose our egotism, pride, and selfishness. But this is a cleansing process, and the hope is that we are then formed and grafted onto the true vine. As members of the vine, we begin to bear fruit abundantly. These are the fruits of the Kingdom – holiness, obedience, faithfulness.