For years I prayed for the fruit of the Spirit every day. (Galatians 5:22f) Yet, looking back, I prayed for the fruit in an altogether fleshly way.
How so? Well basically my prayers were petitions for the moral character of ‘love, joy, peace...' as abstract qualities. I would judge my own spiritual walk that week by how loving, joyful, peaceful... I had been. In short I had turned the fruit of the Spirit into a check-list of works which I either did or didn't practice that week.
One morning, as I was praying for the fruit, I got an image of the Spirit coming to my door with a huge basket laden with choice fruits. And my response was to say ‘Thanks for bringing the fruit. Just leave them inside the door and I'll see you later!'
I wanted the fruit not the Spirit. I wanted the fruit apart from the Spirit. Yet the fruit is fruit of the Spirit. It grows organically as the Spirit unites me to Christ, the true Vine. Henceforward I prayed for the Spirit Himself - He communicates Christ to me as a sheer gift. As I receive Him by faith, so the fruit grows.
Yet how quickly we turn gospel into law.