I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
The promise of answered prayer can create many questions for us when we pray yet seem to receive no response. The beginning of my Christian walk was peppered with instances of seeking God for change in my life but seeing no apparent results. I recall very specific prayers asking him to lead me to a certain job or a certain relationship. It was not uncommon at all for me to decide what was best in many areas of my life and pray in those directions for God to move. I invested considerable time in asking him to financially release me from this country so that I could become a foreign missionary because that was where I thought I belonged. Many nights I spent sleepless, wondering why God had not answered these prayers.
Jesus speaks several times of this idea of abiding in him. He often speaks of this reciprocally, and this verse indicates that. He tells his disciples that if they abide in him, and if his word abides in them, their prayers in his name will be answered. This is not a promise to answer every prayer we utter. This is a promise only to answer the prayers which come from that place of our abiding in him and his word abiding in us. This speaks of spiritual alignment with the Lord and a recognition of his will. This speaks of our desires being in tune with his desires so that we know how to pray. To abide in Christ means that we live in and through him, throwing off every manner of living which is in opposition to that.
To ask of the Father in the name of the Son means that what we request is in agreement with what He stands for. When we have Christ living in and through us, and when we also live in and through him, then the desires of our hearts which we pray are given to us by him. He places them there, and we merely speak them forward. That is what it means to pray in his name. It is more than a matter of a few words uttered at the end of a prayer. It is about the spiritual foundation on which that prayer has been formed. Father, continue to work in us so that we can be sure we are abiding in your Son and He in us, that our prayers would confirm to your will.