The Fourfold Purpose of Pruning
by Allen Hood
Suffering is both the context and fruit of a fallen world. Everyone has experienced suffering. At some point or other, everyone has been hurt, betrayed, taken advantage of, or oppressed by someone else. Yet the Bible promises that God will use even suffering to work for good on behalf of the redeemed. The unbeliever doesn’t share in this promise; it’s reserved for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Knowing this, we can rest in the truth that the Lord uses every season to form greater intimacy with Him and greater fruitfulness for Him.
In John 15:1–8, Jesus describes a season in the life of a believer when God initiates loss in the life of a believer—this is called pruning. The pruning season can bring loss on various fronts—financial, resources, impact, influence, stature, reputation, position, or opportunity. To be pruned is to lose the basis upon which everyone around you measures you as successful. But know this—the Lord has purpose for us in the season of loss.
1. Pruning Makes Fruitful Branches More Fruitful
It is important to understand that the Lord prunes the fruitful branches, not the unfruitful. The unfruitful branches aren’t pruned; they are separated from the vine and thrown into the fire. The pruning season comes to the fruitful believer, giving the hope of greater fruitfulness in the next season. James tells us to consider it all joy during seasons of trial because of the sanctification it brings.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John. 15:2; emphasis added)
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James. 1:2–4)
2. Seasons of Pruning Demonstrate the True Source of One’s Fruitfulness
During a season of fruitfulness, one can mistakenly assume that the life of the vine remains in the branches that are yielding the beautiful fruit and flowers. In other words, in a season of prosperity we can easily believe that fruitfulness comes from our labors, strategies, and talents. Pruning safeguards our hearts from independence and pride, allowing us to refocus on abiding in the vine. It reminds us that God did not call us because of our impressiveness. He called us in our weakness to be a display of His glory. We are reminded of our great need for God and become grateful to Him as our life source. When we recognize once again the truth that the life is in the vine, it becomes our liberty. Our success is not rooted in our performance but in God’s amazing life that dwells in us and moves through us. The pruning process removes the distractions and inordinate pursuits that keep us from abiding in Christ. God becomes our wonderful preoccupation once more, and the first commandment of loving God with everything is repositioned to its proper, primary place.
3. Pruning Causes a Two-Fold Movement of the Word of God in Our Lives
In pruning, the Word cultivated from the previous season is tested for its genuineness, and the present trial forces us to internalize new realities from the Word that will yield fruitfulness in the next season.
The pruning process, first, causes us to manifest, in the present, the very Word that was cultivated in the previous season. The Word cultivated in the previous season is tested and proven genuine. The spirit of wisdom and revelation resting upon our lives is more than Bible knowledge and mastering biblical language in our prayer lives. God desires that the Word becomes flesh—that is, for the implanted Word to displayed in our daily lives. Responding in humility is much better than simply preaching on humility. Trials cause that which is in us to come to the surface.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James. 1:21–22)
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6–7)
Secondly, pruning drives us in a focused way to the Word and places the Word deep in us. Pruning drives us to search out what we wouldn’t have otherwise in this season. The Word that is cultivated within us in a pruning season becomes the platform for God to launch us from in next season. A pruning season looks bare with regards to external activity but forces an internal cultivation of the Word. Trials force us to wrestle with the important questions of life that don’t get addressed in seasons of plenty. What’s happening to my life right now? What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Why does my heart feel this way? I think I am secure in my identity as one loved by God and as a lover of God. Or am I? These questions drive us to the Word for answers that will form the basis of our next season of ministry.
4. Successful Pruning Results in Authority in Prayer
Jesus ends this allegorical section of the vine and branches with the most amazing promise: If you cooperate with the pruning process and are found abiding in the vine while going deeper into God’s Word (God’s nature and purposes), you’ll receive authority in prayer.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:7–8)
I’ve quoted this verse with great joy on many occasions! However, I had detached it from its context in the pruning process. Authority in prayer is a powerful result of the pruning process and becomes the very foundation from which the new season of fruitfulness springs. Prayer flowing from a heart undistracted and filled with the Word provides the foundation for the next season of abundance. Be of good cheer, believer, when the pruning comes. It is the evidence of a past fruitful season and will be the means by which more fruit will come!
See the example of Lazarus. John 11–12 tell us that Jesus loved Martha and Mary; yet He chose them to endure the trial of Lazarus’ death.
Question: Are there past seasons you can reevaluate as pruning from God and give thanks for?
Allen Hood (MDiv, Asbury Theological Seminary) served on the leadership team of the International House of Prayer for more than 15 years. He served as the president of International House of Prayer University from 2003 to 2016 and also served as the associate director of the IHOPKC Missions Base and as the executive pastor of Forerunner Church, IHOPKC’s church expression. Allen is an intercessory missionary called to partner in fulfilling the Great Commission by advancing 24/7 prayer with worship in every tribe and tongue and by proclaiming the beauty of Jesus and His glorious return. His highest joy is to see the Church manifesting the fullness of Christ’s life in the nations. Allen is married to Rachel, and they have three sons.