Read: Mark 9:14-29
Before we get to the details about healing the boy, step back and imagine yourself being one of these people:
As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. Mark 9:15
Would you drop all pretense and run to see Jesus? By this point in Mark’s account, so many wonderful events have been recorded. Jew and Gentile, all around the region, people are hearing about the man that heals, preaches, feeds, and most of all, shows genuine compassion for people. Yes, I would run!
The Disciples Failed
If I were writing an account of my work, the last thing I’d want is to point out this incredible failure:
“…I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” Mark 9:18b
The disciples…ah yes…the stalwart leaders of our faith show their humanity once again and encourage us by not being perfect, by making mistakes, stumbling and faltering, but, hear this: they kept on trying. Their faith was weak compared to where it needed to be, but they never stopped pursuing Jesus. When Jesus rebuked them, they leaned into the words, even captured them in the Gospel records for us to appreciate. Come on Jesus, hit me again, make me stronger for the ministry you have planned for me. Holy Spirit, help me to hear the words and know you’re trying to make me better, more capable, one worthy of the family title I wear as a Christ follower.
Jesus takes control of the situation:
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23
What do you mean by “if” I can? What do you mean by “if” you can? If this is about growing the kingdom of God, we are assured that the gates of Hell cannot stand, so let’s get beyond the if and begin to understand it’s when, not if.
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
The father in this story is moved completely. In my imagination, I see him fall to his knees completely unashamed, all illusion of pride gone from his heart as he considers his boy, his lifelong torture by an unseen enemy. For us, the unseen enemy is unbelief. I join him in his desire: help me overcome my unbelief!
Do you pray often? I have an app that reminds me throughout the day, https://new.echoprayer.com/, to pray for certain people, events, churches, etc., throughout the day. It’s somewhat mechanical, but I know I need the reminders.
In this story, the disciples ask Jesus to explain why they were unsuccessful. Crazy isn’t it? The story ends with these two verses:
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Mark 9:28-29
I love the way Jesus demonstrates compassion for people, but even more how He loves His disciples enough to privately teach them, away from the crowds, noise and attention. Mark doesn’t give us the full transcript of the conversation, something I don’t appreciate in this context! What prayer? Do I lay on hands? Do I recite Isaiah? Tell me more…please!
Nope. Stand back and look. We’re not going to get a prescription for casting out demons from youth that cause boys to convulse, blah, blah, blah. What we are told is two simple truths: 1) the disciples lacked faith and 2) they were not praying.
Both of these are well within our grasp. To increase your faith, get around other believers, go to church and worship full-on, spend time with God by listening to His highlight reel called the Bible–do this daily, often and with sincerity. Pray without ceasing. Download the app if you’re like me, but by whatever means you need, get on your knees and pray. Richard Foster has a great book to help you appreciate all kinds of ways to prayer.
Yes, I’m so pleased for the father and for the boy in the story, they can now live their lives and tell the story with passion and excitement and I’m sure point people to Jesus better than I will ever be able to appreciate. I’m thankful for that lesson, but I’m thankful for the strong lesson on faith and prayer.
Lord strengthen our faith and teach us to pray.