Series: Jesus Encounters
Message: Thy Olympic Wannabe
Preacher: Karl Haffner
Daily Walk: Karl Haffner
Refresh: Open with prayer. Read or listen to Psalm 89:9-18.
Read: Mark 9:17-27 (ESV). As you read the English Standard Version, note 1-3 insights or questions.
Reflect: This Jesus encounter begins with the father explaining that the disciples tried to drive out his son’s evil spirit, but they could not. Consider N. T. Wright’s commentary on the disciples’ failure.
It begins with a problem for the disciples. They had previously been able to cast out demons in Jesus’ name, but this one had them beaten. They were as puzzled as we, the readers, are likely to be; we didn’t realize that there were, so to speak, different degrees of demons, some being harder to deal with than others. All Jesus will say, by way of explanation, is that this kind takes prayer (presumably prayer was always part of the operation; this must mean special prayer, a particularly focused spiritual effort)….
But the main impression we get is of the disciples’ inability to deal with the problem, and the crowd’s consequent impatience with them. They have turned a corner in their pilgrimage; now it’s getting harder. People today often suppose that the early years of a person’s Christian pilgrimage are the difficult ones, and that as you go on in the Christian life it gets more straightforward. The opposite is frequently the case. Precisely when you learn to walk beside Jesus, you are given harder tasks, which will demand more courage, more spiritual energy. Did we suppose following Jesus was like a summer holiday? (119).
The irony in the story is that the father’s prayer is the feeblest of all! He prays, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” To start with “If you can” suggests an anemic faith. It is a reminder, however, that the power of prayer is not about the one who prayers, or the words used in the prayer; rather, the power of prayer rests solely in the One who hears the prayer.
Respond: Pray a “powerful” prayer by acknowledging up front that all power in the prayer is in God alone.
Research: Find examples in Scripture of cases where Jesus marveled at a person’s faith. Contrast those stories with the story of this desperate father and his boy. What are the similarities and differences in the case studies?