A Reminder to Pray
In Mark 6, Jesus had sent the disciples out two by two to proclaim the need for repentance. He had given them not only specific instructions but also “authority over the unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7). Because of this, they had developed a great track record: “They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them” (v 13).
Considering their previous success in the ministry that Jesus had given them, it’s easy to see why the disciples were surprised and confused when their efforts to help a boy with an evil spirit proved futile, until Jesus arrived and stepped in to restore him (Mark 9:14-27). Perhaps in asking, “Why could we not cast it out?” the disciples expected Jesus to give them some sort of secret knowledge. Sometimes that is what we too believe, misunderstanding Jesus’ reply as saying that a very special ability or ministry is needed. But that is not the case. Jesus is simply reminding His disciples, and us, of this: You didn’t succeed because you forgot to do something very important: you didn’t pray.
In their success, the disciples had gotten comfortable. They had lost track of the fact that it was only because of God’s immense mercy and power that they could do anything. They were still in Christ’s company, yet they were already forgetting. They needed a reminder.
Sometimes we need to be reminded as well. To imagine that God’s power is simply at our disposal and under our control is tantamount to unbelief; it’s trusting in ourselves rather than trusting in God. Prayer, by contrast, is ultimately aligning our will with God’s. It acknowledges that God must work wonders because we ourselves can’t. And until we rely on God’s grace, we’re unable to intervene in anyone’s circumstances and make an eternal difference.
There are many reasons why we don’t pray. We don’t think we have to. We don’t want to. We overestimate our own abilities. Each is an absolute presumption on our part. When we try to do things on our own, we will often find ourselves failing miserably. So the next time you’re tempted to figure something out yourself, or to assume that God’s power will bring you through because it did last time (and that “next time” is likely to be today!), consider what the disciples had forgotten and what Jesus reminded them of: pray to the one who has all the power, showers us with mercy, and deserves all the glory. For when you pray and watch what God does, you discover that He does far more than you had even dared ask or thought to imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit
14And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out4 and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”5
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