Mark 9:23-24 – “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” NIV
Jesus is still dealing the boy who is demon possessed and his father. The father has just answered Jesus’ previous question as to how long the boy has been this way, and he adds, “…But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22 – NIV) This remark elicits Jesus’ rhetorical question and following statement.
Jesus was asserting that He certainly could, but seeking to know if the father believed that He could heal his son. The father’s reply is a reply that many followers of Jesus have uttered over the years. In theory we believe that Jesus is capable of anything, but we sometimes doubt if He is able to work in our specific situation.
Jesus did heal the young man that day which brought glory to God, amazement to the crowd, and questions from the Disciples. They wanted to know why they couldn’t heal the young man. When Jesus had sent them out two by two, they had healed many sick people and driven out many evil spirits (Mark 6:12-13). Jesus responded, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29 – NIV). (Some later manuscripts add the words “and fasting.”) Evidently, when it comes to confronting the forces of evil, there is more to the spiritual warfare than just saying a few words.
We need to be prayed up, and that means more than just telling God and the forces of evil what we want to happen. It means listening to the will of God, stating our desire, and then surrendering our will to His will like Jesus did. Jesus could heal this boy because He was in tune with the Father and His will and had the spiritual power to cast out the evil spirit that possessed the boy. The Disciples were lacking that communication.
For those of us who follow Jesus, this brings up a lot of questions. I have prayed for people (usually with others) and seen them healed. I have, also, prayed earnestly for people’s physical healing, and watched them die. Many times these same people were spiritually prepared to face physical death, and so I can always say that they were “ultimately healed.” However, there is always that haunting question, “Did I really believe that this person could be healed? Are they dying because of my (or their) lack of faith?” At times like this I can only echo this father’s prayer, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” and trust God to respond according to His will.
I have seen God the Holy Spirit work in so many ways in the lives of people for whom I’ve been praying that I believe in the power of prayer … especially when believers are united in it. However, there are times that we must simply express our wishes, be quiet and listen, and trust God that He has our best interests in mind. Hopefully, it is a tension that will help us grow to be more like Jesus.