In John 16, Jesus makes some interesting connections between suffering, prayer, and joy. Here’s a smattering of quotes from the passage:
You will feel anguish, but your anguish will become joy… I shall see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you… whatever you request of the Father he will give you in my name… Ask and you will receive, that your joy might be complete. The Father himself loves you because you have cherished me, and have and faith that I have come forth from God.From Jesus’ discourse with his disciples in John 16
The first connection is between our joy as disciples and the act of asking and receiving (i.e. prayer). And no one can take away this joy! Jesus’ promise of unassailable joy is connected to prayer.
A second connection: this joy in prayer is linked with Jesus’s presence with the disciples. “I shall see you again, and your heart shall rejoice.” The unassailable joy we find in prayer is the same joy of communing with Jesus.
A third connection: the presence of Jesus with the disciples is connected to prayer through the sending of the Holy Spirit. “If I do not go away the Advocate is surely not coming to you; but if I go I shall send him to you.” In prayer, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is present with us, and we receive whatever we ask in his name from the Father, which makes full our unassailable joy.
A final connection: all of this happens in the midst of suffering, not as an escape from suffering. “In the world you have suffering; but take heart–I have conquered the world.”
As we follow Jesus and resist being “conformed to the pattern of this world,” we experience suffering and anguish (just like our Lord). But right in the midst of that suffering, through prayer, through asking and receiving from the Father, through the personal presence of Jesus and communion with the Trinity through the Holy Spirit, we are filled with an unassailable joy that cannot be taken away from us.
For we know that Jesus has conquered the world system that opposes the justice and love of God. It has already been defeated, and it cannot last. We work and pray in this hope.