Mark 9:14-32: Impossible? Pray
April 25, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
To descend from the mountaintop and find such a commotion! And apparent failure on the part of his disciples. They “were not able” to cast the evil spirit out of the afflicted child. Jesus sighs in exasperation, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” A crowd begins to gather as Jesus asks questions about the condition of the boy, and so he starts to move into action. The father of the child betrays his own lack of faith: “If you can do anything.” Jesus again shows his near exasperation: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Having been so recently revealed, transfigured, and the voice of heaven saying “listen” to Jesus, now Jesus in this non-mountaintop experience is surrounded by a “faithless generation.” The father of the child cries out—desperate for his son to be healed—“I believe, help my unbelief!” And the son is healed by Jesus, the demon cast out. When he is alone with his disciples, they ask why they could not cast out the demon, and he replies that this kind can only come out by prayer. Stranger stories there may be, but not many! First of all, let us guard against misinterpretation. Jesus is not saying that “all things” are possible in a way that would encourage the fantasist to self-hypnotize into believing that he can fly or run through walls or defy the laws of physics if he could muster enough will power. “Faith” is always faith in God’s will, biblically speaking, and faith in Jesus’ name; that is, it is defined by who Jesus is, what Jesus wants, what God wants. Faith is not pretending what is not true is actually true; faith is aligning your mind and your will with the truth. We might interpret the phrase then as follows: All things, that God wills (for if God does not will, it certainly is not going to happen), are possible for one who believes (what God wills).” Also, when Jesus says that this kind can only come out by prayer, he is not thereby suggesting that the amount of prayer or the quantity of prayer determines the result. Readers of the Sermon on the Mount will know that Jesus taught we are not to pray “like the pagans” who think they will be heard for their many words. What then was the lack in the disciples’ part? Apparently, their lack was prayer itself. It seems as if, perhaps confident in their recent missionary success, they were attempting to perform this miracle without first aligning themselves with God’s will and his power through the means of prayer. If you are facing an apparently impossible task, the first thing to do then is to stop and pray. Which brings us to the most obvious application of this passage: prayer—especially when faced with the apparently impossible. Hudson Taylor used to like to say that there were three stages to any God-given task. 1) Impossible. 2) Difficult. 3) Done. We might add (and Hudson Taylor would most certainly have agreed) that the progress from impossible to difficult to done happens as we fall on our knees in prayer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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