In this context, the bearing of fruit is generalized. It includes everything produced as a result of the labors of publicly preaching the gospel, their service to the church in pastoring, and their personal overcoming and growing in the image of God. They all bring honor to God by declaring the dramatic change for good that takes place as a result of being connected to the Vine and thus able to draw upon Him and His power to produce fruit.
Verse 16 briefly touches on the quality of fruit God desires. It implies that the disciples should be rich in good works and be striving to produce fruit that endures. God wants the fruit to endure both within themselves (by taking on God's character) and in others (in conversions so that the church grows and continues).
The remainder of the verse ties answered prayer directly to the production of fruit. We are all called to participate in the work of the church, if only to pray for it. God has not called everyone to work on the front lines of evangelizing as apostles. But if God has called and chosen us, upon us falls the responsibility of producing fruit within the scope of our place in the body that we all glorify God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit
Is it true that God has given us a blank check to ask anything of Him just as one might ask a genie in a fairy tale? Some may misunderstand this to be the case, but I John 5:14 qualifies what He will grant: "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." Real prayer is communion with God, and what is necessary for communion are common thoughts between His mind and ours.
What we need is for Him to fill our minds and hearts with His thoughts. Then His desires will become our desires flowing back to Him in the form of prayer. James 4:3 confirms this: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." If we ask amiss, we are certainly not asking according to His will, and we will not receive.
But does not Jesus say in John 16:23, "[W]hatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you"? He most assuredly does, but we still do not have a carte blanche. To ask God for anything in the name of Jesus Christ, it must be in keeping with what He is. To ask in Christ's name is to ask as though Christ Himself were asking. Therefore, we can only ask for what Christ Himself would ask. It is therefore necessary to set aside our own will and accept God's. Jesus says in John 8:29: "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." If we do as Jesus did, we are sure to receive answers as He did. He adds in John 11:41-42: "Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me."
We must come away with the realization that prayer is not dictating to God, but a humble and heartfelt expression of our attitude of dependency and need. Because of this, the one who truly prays is submissive to God's will, content with Him supplying his need according to the dictates of His sovereign pleasure. The result of this, combined with the infusion of God's attitudes and thoughts as we draw near to Him, will work to create us in His image.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 15:16: