Posted on April 23, 2014
#51: First Step, Prayer
Have you ever made several attempts at a goal, failed repeatedly, gotten frustrated with your lack of success—then realized that you had never once prayed about your plans, never once asked God to guide or bless? How easy it is to charge ahead, thinking to pray only when we need rescue from the mess we’ve made!
Today’s study shows several of the disciples in just such a situation. Welcome to Knowing Jesus, a close look at Jesus’ life. Our quest is to know Him so we can be like Him. Get your Bible!
Read Mark 9:14-29. You’ll find similar versions of the same event in Matthew 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-43a.
A father came with his scarred, tormented son to ask for Jesus’ help. But Jesus was on the mountain with Peter, James, and John, and no one knew when He’d be back. So the desperate father approached the remaining nine disciples, pleading with them to cast out the demon that had been trying for so long to destroy his boy.
They ordered the demon out, confident from past successes that they could do it. (See Mark 6:7-13, and this series’ post #32: Learning By Experience.) But this time, they had no success. The boy’s eyes didn’t clear, nor did his twisted, pained face relax. The demon in him continued to rage. And his hopeful father’s shoulders slumped in defeat.
A group of ever-present critics began to harrass the disciples, bashing them and their Teacher. J.W. McGarvey wrote, “These scribes had caught the apostles in one and perhaps the only case where they had failed to cure, and they were making full use of the advantageous opportunity to discredit Christ and His apostles before the people by asking sneering and sarcastic questions.” (The Fourfold Gospel, chapter LXX.e)
The nine disciples were shaken. They argued back, trying to defend Jesus, trying to account for their failed attempt at a cure, trying to comfort a distraught parent whose last hope was slipping away.
Then Jesus came walking toward them! The disciples watched as He quickly sized up the situation, sent the critics packing, and turned His attention to the boy’s father—who frantically summed up years of suffering in a few choked sentences.
“If You can do anything,” the man finished, “please take pity on us and help us.”
” ‘If you can’?” Jesus responded. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
“I do believe!” the man cried. “Help me overcome my unbelief!”
With that, Jesus spoke a single stern command and the evil spirit left the boy.
Later, in a private moment, the disciples asked Jesus the question that had been eating at them all day. “Why couldn’t we drive out that demon? What did we do wrong?”
“This kind can come out only by prayer,” Jesus told them. In other words, “You charged ahead, sure you could handle it without Me. You didn’t pray. You expected success, forgetting where your power comes from.”
It was a powerful lesson. The disciples had been confident they knew what to do. They had done it before, but only after being commissioned and empowered by Jesus. He had been their example all along, seeking His Father’s wisdom and strength before every move of His ministry. Now, they were about to usher in the Christian era, and they needed to remember that not one step should be attempted without God’s help.
We need the same reminder. God is our source of wisdom and strength, Lord over every moment of our lives. To move forward without Him is an overconfidence we can’t afford. Prayer should be our instinctive first step, not our last resort.
As you face challenges and make plans, don’t leave Him behind. Make prayer your first step.
© Diane McLoud 2014