I’ve been reading the gospel of John lately and I find myself underlining and highlighting phrases that I find enhance my prayer life.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” Jesus said to his disciples. “A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me.”
Remain in me. It’s a wonderful phrase. It brings prayer down from the heights of a lowly human petitioning a distant God. Instead Jesus is inviting us not just to be next to him but to be in him.
All sorts of negative emotions and thoughts that can fill my head at times: anger, irritation, greed, loneliness, despair, jealousy, small-mindedness. Without even wishing it, I can remain in them.
But Jesus is asking me – and all of us – to remain in him. Which is to remain in love, peace, patience, joy, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, self-control.
I remember my favorite place as a kid to hide was in the back of a closet with my parents’ clothes hanging over my head and the smell of camphor and wool. I felt safe and secure.
That’s my image for remaining in Jesus. Being in some warm comfortable place that is not just His but Him.
These days I wouldn’t be able to fit in a closet, but when I sit on the sofa in the morning, closing my eyes in prayer, I use that image. “Okay, Jesus, come here and remain in me as I remain in you.”
Sure, distracting thoughts make themselves known. I’ll start drafting an email in my head or thinking about a story I want to write or remembering a sick friend I need to call. And besides, the trash needs to be taken out.
Those things can wait. Work can wait, good deeds can wait, even the trash can wait. Remember what Jesus said about remaining in Him? “You can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me.”
Good things come of remaining Him.
Close your eyes, get quiet, rest for a while. Remain in Him. Let your priorities reset themselves. When I get up from the sofa, I’m ready to greet the day.