Read Isaiah 5:1-7 and John 15: 1-4.
Consider how the image of the vine and vinegrower has been altered from Isaiah 5 to John 15. Who is the vinegrower? Who now is the vine? What expectation of us remains from the Old Testament? What has changed?
Consider what ways God has pruned you back through the years to make you more fruitful. Consider what areas of your life might require pruning, and ponder what instruments God might be using to do that. In prayer, try to risk asking God to do what is necessary to make you a fruitful branch in the vine.
Read John 15: 5-8.
How do you feel about your inability to please God or bear fruit or be radically available on your own strength?
Can you recall a time or a season during which you tried to produce fruit apart from Christ, the Vine? What were the results?
What causes the branch to wither when cut off from the Vine? How do people wither when they are cut off from Christ? When they try to produce different fruit than that which God has designed for them? Today in prayer, concentrate on admitting your need to be connected to Christ, the vine, in a living way.
Consider the word abide, which means to remain in, or to dwell in. How does a branch abide in the vine? How can we remain so naturally, effortlessly in Christ?
Read the story of Paul’s living reliance in 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10.
Concentrate especially on the phrase, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Are there times in your life when weakness led you to discover God’s strength? What areas of defeat, inadequacy, illness or weakness may be urging you towards a greater reliance on God today? Today in prayer, try to give thanks for the weaknesses you have been given, and invite God’s strength into them.
Read Psalm 16, focusing especially on the phrase, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Why do we tend to try to live apart from the Lord? Why does such separation destroy the very “good” in our lives. Concentrate on the phrase from vs. 11, “In your presence there is fullness of joy.” Today in your prayers, give thanks for the joy of God’s presence, and invite God to keep you closely connected all through the day. Tonight, consider if such dependence on God led you to fewer or more loving, useful activities.
Read Psalm 32.
What causes us to keep silent about our sins? Why does such denial dry up our strength? How does confession renew our strength? Read Psalm 130, and note the three blessings connected with God: vs. 4 “there is forgiveness with you;” vs. 7, “with the Lord there is steadfast love;” “with him there is great power to redeem.” How does the character of God influence our ability to enter into a relationship of living reliance? In prayer today, acknowledge both your sin and need for God, moving quickly from yourself to thanksgiving for the forgiveness, steadfast love and power of God. Take note today of how a concentration on the character of God influences your character and actions.
Read John 15: 9-17.
How can abiding in Christ be at once so effortless and so fruitful? How, in other words, do we expend energy and strength for God in a way that is both peaceful and exerting?
In practical terms, according to verse 10, how is this abiding expressed?
Visualize in prayer the way a branch abides in the vine, and see yourself as held and holding to Jesus.
Consider this quotation from Andrew Murray’s book, Abide in Christ:
...the feeblest can, each single moment, say, as he consents to occupy his place as a branch in the vine, “Yes, I do abide in Christ.” It is not a matter of feeling--it is not a question of growth or strength in the Christian life--it is the simple question whether the will at the present moment desires and consents to recognize the place you have in your Lord, and to accept it. If you are a believer, you are in Christ. If you are in Christ, and wish to stay there, it is your duty to say, though it be but for a moment, “Blessed Saviour, I abide in Thee now; Thou keepest me now.”
Practice saying this prayer of living reliance throughout the day.