Help me to Abide in You
6 Ways to Abide in God
To abide in God, to take Him as our dwelling, is one of the highest truths in the Bible. Many know that it is revealed by Christ in John 17, but did you know that Moses spoke of it as well? Yes, in his last prayer in Deuteronomy 33:27, repeated in Psalm 90:1, he says “O Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”
Isn’t it amazing that an Old Testament saint could see this high truth? He even saw that it is a corporate matter, a matter for a body of saints, not just for one individual, as indicated by his use of the plural “our.” And it is a present perfect continuous tense, “You have been,” indicating an action in the past continuing up to now, such that during our entire life here on earth, we should be those continually living in God.
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus used the word “abide” (John 15:4-5)—“abide in Me.” Other words in the New Testament point to this truth: the preposition “in” (John 14:20 and many places), the word dwell (Gk. oikeo, taken from the noun for house) (1 Cor.
3:16), and to deeply dwell (Gk. katoikeo, with a prefix meaning to an excessive degree) (Eph. 3:17).
May we all progress from merely occasionally being in God, to more often abiding in God, to dwelling in God for longer periods, to deeply dwelling in God for our whole life!
How can we practice this? The following are six ways:
The first way to abide in God is to eat Christ as the hidden manna. The hidden manna is first mentioned in Exodus 16:32-34, which according to Hebrews 9:4 was placed in a golden pot, which was placed in the ark, which was in the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle of God.
This special portion of manna, the children of Israel’s daily food, was kept aside as a memorial, and lasts forever. In Revelation 2:17 it is mentioned as the promise to the overcomers.Only those who overcome have such a special, hidden enjoyment of God, not the common kind that all people enjoyed together.
How can we have such a hidden enjoyment of Christ as our food? By spending personal, intimate, private time with Him every day. Our enjoyment of God must be more than in the meetings of the church. It is the private prayer and fellowship with God that cements the word we have heard into an eternal memorial within our being, and even more as a treasure within the house of God.
Second, abide in His word
The second way to abide in God is to abide in His Word (John 8:31). We have His constant word in the Scriptures, and His present word from the Spirit in our spirit. We must not come to the Bible without also coming to Christ (John 5:39-40). The more we come to His word, the more the Word should become His instant speaking to us day by day, guiding us to live in Him.
The best way to learn to abide in His Word is to pray-read the Word of God, that is, to use the Bible as the inspiration and source of our prayer (Eph. 6:17-18). This practice helps us to use our spirit to touch the Spirit in the word. Don’t live a day without pray-reading the Word, even just two verses.
Third, speak in Him
If we allow His word to abide in us, we will have something to speak to others unto the building of His house (1 Cor. 14:4). The apostle Paul declared in 2 Cor. 2:17 that “we speak in Christ.” In my experience, the more I speak for Him, in Him, the deeper I myself move into God.
Fourth, always rejoice, unceasingly pray, and in everything give thanks
This fourth practice to abide in God is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
“Always rejoice, Unceasingly pray, In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It’s one thing for God to say His will for us is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks; it’s so much more for Him to say always rejoice, unceasingly pray, and in everything give thanks. It’s easy to rejoice, pray, and give thanks once a week at a church meeting, but the modifiers in these verses refer to a practice that involves our entire human living, all day, every day.[A good way to remember to do this is to sing these verses. You can find one tune at Hymnal.net and click the link: Tune (Midi)]
This is the most practical way, I’ve found, to remind me to abide in God.
It means even to rejoice when things seem bleak (for we always have God with us), to pray at all times, even while we are driving or studying a textbook, and to give thanks for everything, even when we are poor, hungry, or imprisoned (cf. Acts 16:23-25).
We should look at all circumstances, environments, and even all persons as set by God for us to learn to dwell in Him. This is the “good” that all things work for as mentioned in Romans 8:28.
Fifth, bear much fruit
This fifth way to abide in God is both a method and a result. The more we bear spiritual fruit (John 15:8), the deeper is our abiding in God; the more we abide in God, the more we bear fruit.
This fruit is both the virtues and characteristics of God expressed by us (see Gal 5:22 and note) and also those whom we bring to salvation and offer to God (see John 15:16 and note).
Helping those whom we bring to the Lord to remain is a long-lasting labor that requires that we abide in God.
Sixth, care for His presence
The last way to abide in God that I’ll present here is to care for His presence.
After the Lord’s death, when he appeared and disappeared to His disciples, He was training them to care for His invisible presence, the presence of His Spirit within them (John 20:26; Acts 1:3, 26 and notes).
Since He breathed the Spirit into us when we believed in Him (John 20:22), He is with us all the time. It’s just that we too often forget He is within us, and live as if God is far away.
Sometimes we want Him to go away; other times we just live by our habits and not by His guiding from within. What He wants is that we would not ignore Him, but rather, consult Him in everything, caring for the One who is inside of us. By doing so, we deepen our dwelling in Him, from just paying attention to Him during meetings to all the time, in everything.
You may have noticed that most of these practices on how to abide in God have to do with His abiding in us. That’s right, for the abiding is a mutual abiding: “Abide in Me and I in you” (John 15:4). We need to allow Christ’s abiding in us to move from a fact that we know to our practice of allowing Him to live us, which is our abiding in Him.
“Lord, teach me to abide in You. I want to progress from having You in me, to having me live in You. To do this, Lord, keep me contacting You. Don’t let me slip away from spending private time with You. Keep me in Your Word every day, even pray-reading it.
Lord, increase my speaking for You; may I say as Paul did, ‘I speak in Christ.’ Lord, I want to bear much fruit, and I want to care for Your presence, even for the smiling of Your face. Lastly Lord, remind me to call on Your name, to always rejoice, to unceasingly pray, and to give thanks in everything.
May everything remind me to abide in You.”
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References and Recommended Reading:
Three Keys to Abide in Christ
“Abide in me, and I in you.” (John 15:4)
Christianity is about far more than holding right beliefs or adopting right behaviors. At salvation, we enter into a union with God that changes our legal status. We have right standing with God now. We have a righteousness that comes by faith, and that faith justifies us (Philippians 3:7-9; Romans 3:21-26, 5:1).
But we have more. We also have communion with God. We have access to a life-giving, soul-thrilling, joy-producing communion with God through Christ (1 John 1:3; John 15:11). The Christian faith is about union and communion with Jesus.
Union with Christ without communion with Christ is joyless Christianity.
Our hearts should desire this intimate relationship. We should long for this fellowship with God.
David reflects this posture when he prays, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
David earnestly seeks God. His soul thirsts for God. There is desperation. There is urgency. Oh, to have a heart that echoes his!
Do we seek God this? Do we desire God in this manner? Is there any part of David’s cry that you recognize in your heart?
Jesus Invites You to Abide
In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples about this communion. He informs them that he has already made them clean (John 15:3), and has pronounced them clean during the upper room foot washing (John 13:10-11).
This ceremony wasn’t pointing to Jesus’ hyper-aversion to dirty feet; it was a symbolic display of his incarnation, atoning sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension.
This is why he declared them clean, with the exception of Judas (a clear indication dirty feet was not the idea).Jesus says this hours before going to the cross to bear their sins and make them clean. So Jesus’ declaration in John 15:3 is a statement of legal status.
He follows this with the command “abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). To “abide” is a verb. It is active. Abiding in Christ is not a feeling or a belief, but something we do. It means to “remain” or “stay” and entails far more than the idea of continued belief in the Savior.
John 15:5 further illustrates this abiding relationship with a parallel relationship of a vine and a branch. We (the branches) are to be connected to him (the Vine) for our life and sustenance. Only in him can we bear fruit.
What the Saints Say
But how? What does it look to abide in Christ daily? A few descriptions from other godly saints help us get a picture:
John Piper says, “Hour-by-hour abiding in Jesus means hour-by-hour trusting him to meet all your needs and be all our treasure.”
Ryle explains, “To abide in Christ means to keep up a habit of constant close communion with Him–to be always leaning on Him, resting on Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, and using Him as our Fountain of life and strength, as our chief Companion and best Friend. To have His words abiding in us, is to keep His sayings and precepts continually before our memories and minds, and to make them the guide of our actions and the rule of our daily conduct and behavior.”
John Owen exhorts, “Would a soul continually eye His everlasting tenderness and compassion, His thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, His present gracious acceptance, it could not bear an hour’s absence from Him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with Him one hour.”
Three Keys to Abiding
Abiding has a continual, hour-by-hour nature to it, a constant looking to Jesus through the Scriptures. If we could avoid gospel-amnesia and remember his grace, we could barely stand an hour’s absence from him. These saints give incredible definitions to help us grasp abiding in Christ. Here’s mine:
To abide in Christ daily requires dependence upon the Holy Spirit in which we do three things:
- Walk by faith
- Spend focused time
- Engage in intentional actions
We daily preach the gospel to ourselves (walk by faith); plan to abide throughout our days (focused time); and read Scripture, pray, live in community with others, and fight sin (intentional actions). We do this as we live dependent upon the Holy Spirit to bring us closer to Christ.
To be “in Christ” means to have a new legal standing and a new relational orientation. We do not solely want to be made right with God—we want to be with God. We are new creations in Christ, freed from sin and worldly pursuits to abide in him. And he gives us what we need to pursue this by giving us himself.
Are you eager to say with David, “Earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you?” May the Holy Spirit spark in us a want for more of Christ. May we yearn with holy urgency to know the depths and riches of the love of Christ, grasped through abiding.
Abide in Prayer
Maybe people that we work with in spiritual direction/mentoring find it hard to be still with Jesus. When they get alone and quiet themselves for prayer they have trouble settling down. Their bodies are antsy. Their minds are restless and wander from one thought to another. Many distractions seize hold of their attention, sidetracking them from connecting meaningfully with Jesus.
I can relate! People are often surprised to hear this. I have always been an active, energetic, productive person. And that’s putting it mildly! For years I was a workaholic, thriving on adrenaline and plagued with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. (You can read my story of recovery: Hurry Up and Be Still!)
Learning to be quiet, still, unhurried, and focused on Christ in my midst hasn’t come easy for me. I’ve had to discipline myself to slooooow down and appreciate God’s Word to me. I’ve had learn to heed the advice of the writer to Hebrews: “Be careful!… Make every effort to enter God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:1, 11).
To Abide in Prayer is to Be Still with Jesus
Jesus said, “Abide in me and you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5, paraphrase). But what does it mean to abide in Christ? To abide is to remain. It’s to stay connected the branch to the vine. We remain connected to Christ in trust, dependence, and worship — in our thoughts as much as possible and in the deep attitude of our heart, most of which is unconscious to us at any given time.
Using short phrases from Scripture is a way to practice our abiding in prayer. It’s a way into contemplative prayer in which we seek to be still with Jesus and grow in his peace and power.
Marinating in some beloved words of the Bible helps us to grow deeper in our understanding of God and his life that he invites us into.
It helps us to center ourselves in Christ, the Word of God made flesh.
As Jesus taught, we want to be the grapevine branch that yields clusters of juicy grapes! The way to bear fruit, Jesus says, is to “abide” in, or remain interconnected with him and his words. Jesus is our Vine, the Father is our Gardener, and the Holy Spirit is the life of Christ flowing into us and through us to others so that we bear fruit for his kingdom (John 15:1-7).
We all want to bear good fruit in our lives, to make a positive difference by loving and helping other people. But Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
We can’t bear fruit for God’s glory just by trying hard! But neither can we bear fruit by doing nothing! Jesus could have also said, “If you do nothing it will be apart from me.
” That’s the same thing as Jesus saying, “Abide in me.”
To Abide in Prayer is a way to work at resting in God’s grace. We start by praying Scripture in intensive “quiet times.” And this helps us to learn to interact with and rely on Christ with us (abiding) as we do whatever we’re doing.While driving my car or listening to a friend or writing this article now I remind myself to appreciate God’s goodness, submit to his will, listen to the Spirit, and share the love of Christ.
You can appreciate Christ with you teaching and loving you right now as you read these words… Just shoot up a little “arrow prayer” with me:
Father, I long to live in communion with you… Jesus, teach me to pray… Holy Spirit I rely on you now…
Being in tune with Christ and walking with him as we do whatever we’re doing is what gives us the capacity to bless others naturally, joyfully, and for God’s glory (not our own).
Pray Scripture Deeply
“Abiding Prayers” are simple, and yet profound, Bible-based prayers that help us to trust and follow Christ as his disciples.
When we Abide in Prayer we pray Scripture deeply from our hearts by focusing on the words in quiet prayer, slowly repeating them to yourself over and over.
As you turn God’s Word over in your mind you “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).
With the Psalmist you open your heart to the Lord and you open yourself to hear his invitation: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
When you go into quiet, meditative prayer to still your body and calm your mind with God’s Word you will experience inevitable antsiness and distractions — don’t get troubled by this! The reason to set aside time to Abide in Prayer is to practice re-centering your focus to the Bible phrase you’re meditating on and applying to your life.
By prayerfully reflecting upon and re-centering yourself on a short, beloved phrase of Scripture you can tune out the worries and distractions and tune into God’s peace. Then you can pray for the inspired words of God to seep down from your mind into your heart (which is your will) so that you are formed more into the image of Christ.
In Abiding Prayer we’re doing “soul work” to submit our will more fully to God’s will and to follow Christ wholeheartedly in daily life.
Join the Selah of the Psalmist
Something Abiding Prayer goes back to the forming of the Hebrew Psalter, a thousand years before Christ. In the Psalms we often see short prayers repeated over and over “His love endures forever” or “Lord, have mercy.”
Also, 71 times in the Psalms — often in the middle of a sentence! — we find the word, “Selah.” This word was inserted into the Psalms by the prayer masters who taught the people of Israel to pray the Psalms of David. “Selah” probably means something , “Pause to reflect and pray.”
Selah… Right in the middle of the Psalm — as it was being read or sung — a sacred space was made to be still and quiet before the Lord, to abide in God’s presence.
Use Your Imagination
Many people find it helpful to imagine a Scripture as they’re praying. Imbedded in our language are symbols and metaphors. The Bible is full of wonderful pictorial images and illustrations.
Imaging the Scripture you’re praying helps you to keep your mind focused and appreciative of God’s wisdom and grace.
When your mind wanders you can use the Biblical image to help re-focus your mind on your prayer and take God’s Word deeper into your heart and soul.For instance in meditating on Psalm 23 it’s easy to visualize the scenes. I visualize the Lord as my Shepherd and myself as his sheep and I follow along with the the imagery imbedded in this wonderful Psalm.
I pray, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” and I picture Jesus as my Shepherd and myself as his sheep… I’m happy to be near him in his green pasture… I drink from his still waters… I follow him on his path… (For an example of how to meditate on the imagery in the Shepherd Psalm see my popular article, “Psalm 23 Pictures to Pray.”)
Praying God’s Word to abide in Christ in this way gives us peace and power to love others effectively.
Practice God’s Presence
Try practicing Abiding Prayer in silence and solitude for five minutes or so at the beginning of your day to settle yourself in God’s presence.
It’s best to do this in a quiet corner of your home or in a beautiful nature setting, but you can even learn to do this while you’re getting ready in the morning, driving your car, or waiting somewhere.
By immersing our consciousness in Christ and submitting to his kingdom we come to rejoice in the Lord and find that his peace as a guards our mind and heart (Philippians 4:4-7). We are then in position to love others as Christ has first loved us (1 John 4:16,19).
When the word of God (words of Scripture that remind you of Jesus’ gospel that the kingdom of the heavens is open to you right where you are) dwells in you richly and deeply then you can carry it with you all day (Colossians 3:16-17).
During the day briefly come back to your Abiding Prayer as often as you can remember. In the midst of whatever you’re doing just shoot up a little “arrow prayer.” (That’s what Ray Ortlund called it when he discipled me.
) In this way you can learn little-by-little to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and to “practice the presence of God.”
Learning to do whatever we’re doing with an appreciation of Christ loving us, guiding us, and empowering us is the secret to a fruitful life. Prayer must come before and encompass service. In other words, we must live with Christ in order to live for him.
Abide in Prayer for Others
When we intercede in prayer for others we normally describe their needs and make specific petitions to God on their behalf, often going into great detail. Of course, this is a good way to pray.
Another way to intercede for someone is to use a verse or phrase of Scripture to abide in prayer for them. Praying Scripture for others helps us to form effective prayers and to stay focused.
And it’s a delightful, peaceful, and powerful way of participating in intercessory prayer.Using the words of Scripture to help us interceded reminds us that prayer is always initiated by God; when we pray we are joining in with the prayers of Christ at the right hand of God and the prayers of the Holy Spirit from deep within us.
To abide in prayer for someone else is to hold him or her in God’s presence with you, praying for him or her to be as the branch abiding in the Christ-vine, tended by our loving Father, and bearing fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s Abide Now!
There are hundreds of Abiding Prayers that I’ve used to get settled and centered in Christ. They are all simple, compelling phrases (or paraphrases) from the Psalms and other places in the Bible.
Many people that consult with me in therapy, spiritual direction, seminars, and retreats have found that Abiding Prayers help them to rest in Abba’s love and to do the soul work that is needed for them to be formed more into the image of Christ.
Let’s try a few Abiding Prayers now! (You may want to print this article out and go to a quiet place so you can be undistracted and give at least a few minutes to praying.)
You might practice warming up yourself for prayer by focusing on your bodily posture before God. It greatly helps to engage your mind and heart on God when you’re intentional about putting your body into your prayer.
Sit comfortably… Relax…
You may want to let your rhythm of breathing in and out become a prayer…
You may want to hold out your hands to open yourself to the Lord…
Breathe in God’s Peace
Hear the word of God to the Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
You probably know this prayer. But did you know that it’s context in Psalm 46 is war and devastation? That’s the real test of our peace — can we rest in God’s care in the midst of distress and pain?
Let’s so some soul work and practice being still in Christ’s presence now. Consider something that scares you or makes you anxious… Name this to the Lord… Picture yourself in that situation…
Then sloooowly pray God’s Word to yourself as a “Simplifying Breath Prayer”:
Be still and know that I am God…
Be still and know that I AM…
Be still and know…
Focus on Jesus
Here’s another favorite Abiding Prayer of mine: “Jesus, be the center.”
This little prayer of the heart is Matthew 17:6-8 (MSG), “The disciples saw Jesus, only Jesus,” and Matthew 21:9 (NLT), “Jesus was in the center.” It’s a simple little prayer that says it all! You might try gently repeating this prayer to yourself now: “Jesus, be the center…”
It’s helpful to use an Abiding Prayer to do some soul work in which we open ourselves to God in order to be formed more into the image of Christ. “Watch and pray,” Jesus taught us. We’re seeking for Jesus to be our focus and our desire in the activities of the day ahead. Consider your schedule and pray: “As I _________, Jesus, be the center.”
Submit to God
Jesus prayed on the cross: “Father… into your hands I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:5 & Luke 23:46). This is another powerful, little prayer for our spiritual formation.
Try offering this prayer to submit the parts of yourself and your life to God: “Father… into your hands I commit my ________…” (e.g., thoughts… desires… health… relationships… dreams).
Remember we can also abide in prayer for others. Intercede for people the Lord brings to your mind: “Father… into your hands I commit __(name)__”
More Soul Shepherding
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [or woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But some Scriptures seem to be especially anointed to minister God’s grace to us! Read Breath Prayers from the Bible for more some favorite Scripture based Abiding Prayers.
See “Retreat Resources” for a list of Soul Shepherding resources to help you connect with Jesus on retreat.
Podcast to listen to: “If My Words Abide in You” by John Piper
A few months back, I shared my top 5 fave christian podcasts with y’all and promised that I would start a new series here on BTD surrounding all things podcasts.
Well, I know it’s been quite some time but I’m finally BACK with another (faith-based) podcast-themed blog post for y’all! Today I’m going to be talking about a podcast I listened to recently by pastor John Piper called “If My Words Abide in You” (find the video + link below!)
When I first listened/watched this sermon, I was (#confessions) curling my hair – imagine that, trying to do two things at once. And I remember thinking, okay this is basically a slam poetry performance with scripture – and quite frankly, I’m a little bored.
I was about to skip to the next sermon when he caught my attention. For starters, he stopped quoting scripture. I’ll admit, it felt he was bragging a little (or maybe I was just a wee bit jealous). But then, he ALWAYS does, he hit yet another home run in my life and for that reason, I’ll never forget the impact this it had on my life.
To give you an overview, this sermon is half a recitation of living scripture (until minute 17) and half an explanation of the importance of reading and memorizing scripture.I’ve always known it’s important to memorize God’s words, but this sermon really made it clear and almost urgent that I needed to get a move on it. I’ve never been so motivated to memorize the written word of God than I have been in the last few months.
And as such, I felt compelled to share it with y’all and encourage you to listen for yourself!
What I learned + Big Takeaways
I’m going to do my best to share what I learned for y’all. But please keep in mind that explaining these types of things things – putting words to my crazy thoughts – is often pulling teeth for me. I don’t know why, but it’s such a struggle. Hence why it has taken me 8 months to get this post published. But anyway, let’s get after it.
most sermons, it reminded me of things I already knew but that needed to be brought to the forefront of my mind. It’s funny how that works, right? the most profound messages are often the simplest – and the most basic truths are the most profound.
Although the underlying premise of the message is the power of memorizing scripture, the points Piper made and things he talked through renewed in me an eagerness and excitement for the power of scripture in general – whether I’m simply reading it or taking it a step further and committing it to memory.
Regardless, I was reminded of three simple truths while listening to Piper’s sermon that I wanted to share with y’all :
1. God speaks to us through His word
My bible study leader says this funny, little saying when we’re talking about following God’s will or making hard decisions. First she’ll ask whether or not we’ve been reading the bible and simultaneously making time for focused and fervent prayer.
Then if we say no, we all know what comes next. She’ll repeat the familiar phrase we’ve all heard many times before: “complaining about not hearing from God when you haven’t opened your bible is getting upset about not getting a text message when your phone is turned off.”
In the same way we’ve got to turn our phones on (and ensure a clear signal/service) in order to receive a text message, we’ve GOT to actually open our bibles in order to hear from God. Until we allow God to speak (through His word), there’s really nothing we can complain about. I know it’s a silly comparison, but it’s true and that’s powerful.
2. The holy spirit transforms us through the word
Piper talks about how the word of God is living – I love this. I’ve heard this many times before but it really stood out to me this time. That the scriptures are HOW the holy spirit gets us from point A to point B – from one degree of holy to another as we venture through our sanctification process.
3. The word of God is our defense against the enemy
I don’t want to get into spiritual warfare or anything here (although it’s VERY real people), but I just want to state that we are most certainly called to be on our guard (1 Peter 5:8). The word of God is our only weapon of attack against the enemy – the sword of truth is enough though to fight temptation and conquer the lies of the enemy (Eph 6:17)
Okay that’s all I’ve got for now – although I could probably write for hours on all the things this message stirred up in me. But I think the most important thing is I wanted to encourage you to listen/watch it for yourself and then come back and comment with what stood out to YOU!
What about You?
If you do end up listening to it, I’d love to hear from you!
To be honest, I don’t feel I did the best job explaining all that I did learn (THERE’S SO MUCH), but I did my best to get it on paper so that I could share some of the love. One of my 2017 resolutions is to stop holding myself back because I want things to be perfect but to sometimes just put it out there – even if I’m not 100% (or even 90%) thrilled with it.
Can’t wait to read what y’all think of my thoughts slash after listening to the sermon yourselves!
Sermon details: “If My Words Abide in You” by John Piper (link to Desiring God website Audio Clip)