We sometimes say “I’ll pray for you” when we don’t know what else to say. But praying for someone or in the face of an impossible situation is always the right thing to do. As Jesus showed in Mark 9, prayer is powerful.
When the disciples asked Jesus why they had been unable to cast out the demon in today’s passage, Jesus answered, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (v. 29). His reply raises a question of its own. What method had the disciples used instead?
The text does not say how the disciples tried to help the boy, only that they had failed in their attempt (v. 18). Their failure caused the boy’s father to question Jesus’ power (vv. 21–22). Between the two, it is not immediately obvious whom Jesus was talking about when He said, “You unbelieving generation” and then, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Was it the boy’s father, the disciples, or the crowd? Perhaps it was all of them.
Faith is compatible with action, but action is not an adequate substitute for faith. Whatever it was that the disciples tried to do for the boy, they did in their own strength and failed miserably. Sometimes it is better to act than to pray (see Ex. 14:15). But in most cases, prayer should be our first, not last resort. We can pray as we act. Or, when we are unable to act, we can pray that God will act with a power we do not have. Prayer is the Christian’s primary source of spiritual power. Everything is possible to him who believes, but some things are only possible through prayer.
>> Are you facing a problem that seems impossible to solve? Do you have trouble believing that God can work in your situation? Pray the father’s prayer: “Lord Jesus, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24).
We have tried and failed. We have faltered in our faith. We have asked and been denied. So much of life—and Your will—is beyond our understanding. We believe, Father, but help our unbelief.