He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer. -Mark 9:29, NIV
In Mark 9:14-29, we find the story of Jesus healing the boy with the mute spirit.
Imagine you are in the crowd. You are a bystander – not one of the disciples, the scribes, or the father. What do you see? Let’s take a step back and get perspective.
I imagined myself to be Mary (the one who Jesus healed from seven demons). Here’s what I saw…
I am standing in the crowd. Jesus, Peter, James, and John have just come back down from the mountain. Jesus looks different, like he is glowing. Peter, James, and John look like they have just seen a ghost. I’m sure I’ll hear about it later, but right now, I am worried about this poor boy in need of healing. A man brought his son to the disciples to be healed. The boy has a demon. I can relate to that. Jesus had to cast out seven from me.
When the spirit gets stirred up in the boy, the spirit seizes him, causes him to foam at the mouth, and throws him to the ground. He is in constant danger of getting hurt when this happens. The father is beside himself and desperate. He needs a miracle. The disciples have tried everything but can’t get the spirit to leave the boy. The father becomes discouraged, the crowd starts to doubt, and the scribes start running their mouth about Jesus being a fraud. The disciples get mad at the scribes and soon an argument starts. The men are trying to one-up each other, egos are flaring, and accusations are flying. When we all see Jesus, we start running towards him.
Jesus asks what’s going on and the men start yelling and talking over each other. The father finally gets to speak. He tells Jesus about his son and how the disciples could not help him. I look over at Peter, James, and John. They still look terrified. I wonder what in the world happened to them on that mountain. It must be something because Peter never misses an opportunity to show how strong and faithful he is. Now, all he is doing is standing there, waiting on Jesus like the rest of us. I look back at Jesus, and as soon I see the look he is giving the disciples, I knew that he was going to let them have it. He takes a deep, exhales slowly, and says, “You unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
The father brings the boy to him and says, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus looks at the man intently and asks, “If you can’?” Clearly, the father didn’t know who Jesus was. He was still thinking that Jesus was some fly-by-night that had a few tricks up his sleeves. This was God himself walking among us and the boy’s father is questioning God’s ability. But, who can blame the man? The way the disciples were acting didn’t help. I’d question God too if I pay attention to the people following him.
After looking at the man for a moment, Jesus softens his gaze and says, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” I love when he does that. He always shows us grace and mercy when he encounters our humanity. When the father felt that love gaze, he immediately exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” That moment was the moment that the father became a disciple of Christ, when he had that John 3:16 moment.
That’s all Jesus needed from the father, a kernel of belief, a mustard seed of faith. With that, Jesus healed the boy. Well, at least we thought. What actually happened was the boy convulsed and fell to the ground as though dead. I held my breath as I waited to see what Jesus would do.
Then, Jesus took the boy by the hand and stood the boy up onto his feet. All was well. The boy was healed. Jesus saved the day again. As I watched that boy walk around, I was reminded of my John 3:16 moment. That day changed my life. I am truly a witness of what God can do. That’s why I am a faithful disciple of Christ to this day.
Afterward, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t heal the boy. Jesus simply said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Some people reported that he said, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” It doesn’t matter. The point is this. Even if we fast, if we forget to pray, nothing happens. The disciples said and did everything, but they didn’t pray. They forgot to pray. Prayer is asking God for help. Prayer is acknowledging that we can’t do anything without God’s help. Prayer is allowing the Holy Spirit to take control. Prayer is standing on the promises of Christ Jesus. So, in all you do, please don’t forget to pray.
Prompt for Thought: When have you forgotten to pray in the past? What are you not praying about right now? Take the time to pray now?
Prayer for the Journey: God, please forgive us for the times that we tried to use our human efforts to solve problems that we need to take to you in prayer. When we try to be our own heroes and sheroes, help us to take a moment to bring everything to you in prayer. When we pray, if we doubt, help us in our unbelief. In Jesus’ name, Amen.