Apart from Me You Can Do Nothing
Failure to Pray is Always a Sign of Self-Reliance
This is the absolute implication of Jesus’ words in John 15:1-8. v.7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Why does Jesus say this? v.5 “…apart from me you can do nothing.” He tells you to pray because you are helpless on our own. If you don’t call on Him in prayer, you’re telling Jesus, "No, I got this. I can handle this Jesus. I’m not as helpless as you make me out to be."
Prayerlessness is not merely a mishandling of priorities; it is pride.
Prayerlessness is one of the chief signs of the reprobate.
David says in Psalm 14:4, “Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?” Jeremiah 10:25 “Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name,” (cf. Hosea 7:7) Why do the reprobate refuse to pray? Because they see no need of the Lord.
If you say, “I’m too busy to pray…I just don’t have time.” You are simply agreeing with the doctrine. You’re saying “I have too many things to do, that require my effort. If I give time to prayer, I’m giving less time to my effort. The only person that is dependable is me."
The Puritan Thomas Brooks said “What are all those businesses that are upon your hands, [compared] to those business and weighty affairs that lay upon the hands of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, Elijah, Nehemiah, Peter, [and] Cornelius? And yet you find all theses worthies exercising themselves in private prayers…Now certainly, sirs, your great businesses are little more than zeros compared with theirs.”(1)
If you are busy, that is all the more reason to pray to God and ask for help. Nobody was more busy than Jesus Christ when He ministered on earth. And yet what did He do? He often went away for whole evenings to spend time with the Father in prayer (cf. Luke 6:12). Jesus was not self-reliant. He depended upon time conversing with the Father. And so do you. The quickest way to give into the temptation to defect from Jesus Christ is to start to rely on your own strength. Having your prayer life consist merely of throwing up 10 second prayers to God, is like texting while driving. You’re going to crash. “Apart from Christ you can do nothing.”
Get Yourself Happy in the Lord Through His Word
George Müller insisted upon the importance of John 15:7. “I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it…What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God;…(2) The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.”(3)
What does this look like? Consider three ways to get yourself happy in the Lord through His Word:
- Memorize the Word
The Psalmist says in Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The Hebrew word for “stored” can be translated treasure.(4) Memorizing is treasuring. If someone offered you a combination to a safety deposit box which contained millions of dollars, and you had to memorize it in order to get the money, you would memorize. How much more the Words of the Living Christ? Memorizing is not a trivial exericise. Memorizing is treasuring.
- Meditate on the Word
This is implied in v.7 “If…my words abide in you.” ἐνοικέω enoikeō in the Greek.(5) Meaning, “let my Word inhabit you, influence you, reside within you. There is a powerful affect that happens when our mind mentally chews on the Words of Christ. David says in Psalm 39:3 “My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned;” David was saying “as I reflected…as I was absorbed in thought”(6) then my heart became hot—the fire burned. Intimacy with Christ comes when the Words of Scripture come alive to the heart through musing on them. (7)
- Pray the Word
This is where many Christians fail. Reading and prayer. If you were to ask which is more important, it would be like looking out the window at 30,000 feet and asking, “Which wing is more important, the right or the left?” God gives us Scripture so we can enter into a holy argument with Him. “Lord your Word says, 'Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.' (Psalm 37:4) That is your express will. And John says that in 1 John 5:14, 'This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.' So Lord, give me delight in you. Help me to see you as glorious though my circumstances are gloomy. Cause me to see oh God that whatever comes from your Sovereign hand, it is only good. You can only do good things. And therefore cause me to delight in whatever you have planned for my life."
No Good Thing Does He Withhold from Those Who Walk Uprightly
When Müller’s later recounted the last moments with his wife Mary, this is what he said:
“The last portion of Scripture which I read to my precious wife was this: 'The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory, no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly' (Psalm 84:11) Now, if we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have received grace, we are partakers of grace, and to all such he will give glory also. I said to myself, with regard to the latter part, 'no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly'—I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ…”
God does not withhold any good thing from those who have trusted in Him. He has given You His only Son. Romans 8:32 says “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” He has given you His Son! How can he fail to give you every other good thing? So when your wife dies, or when your health fails, or your bank account is zero, trust that even these things are good things ultimately from the Father. These will ultimately be used to draw you nearer to the cross. Nearer to Christ. Nearer to glory.
*This Blog post is an excerpt from the sermon, Apart from Me You Can Do Nothing. For a complete written transcript or audio download of the sermon, please visit the sermon page HERE.*
(1) Thomas Brooks, The Secret Key to Heaven: The Vital Importance of Private Prayer, (Carlisle,
PA.,: The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprint 2009), pg. 87-88
(2) John Piper, A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor, (Wheaton, IL.,: Crossway, 2016), pg. 82
(3) John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of A Christian Hedonist, (Colorado Springs, CO.,:
Multnomah Books, 2003), pg. 357
(7) “When the Biblical words of Jesus abide in [your] mind, [you] hear the very thoughts of the
Living Christ…and out of that deep listening of the heart comes the language of prayer.” John
Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of A Christian Hedonist, (Colorado Springs, CO.,: Multnomah
Books, 2003), pg. 175