Series: Short Stories with Jesus
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Karl Haffner
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Purpose: Jessyka Albert
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Mark 9:17-27 in the English Standard Version (ESV). 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? (p. 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.
Recalibrate: What do you make of Jesus’ response (v. 29) that this kind of spirit only can be exorcised by prayer? How can you deepen your prayer life this week? In your experience with God, have you found the challenges you confront with prayer to be getting harder or easier? Explain.
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?
Remember: “Everything is possible for one who believes.” —Mark 9:23 (NIV)
Karl Haffner gets to hang out with some fabulous folk at the Kettering Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ohio where he serves as pastor. He's blessed with his wife, Cherié, and their two daughters, Lindsey (a senior at Walla Walla University) and Claire (a junior at Spring Valley Academy). They also have a mutt named Skip.
Point to your eyes and ears and mouth and hands, asking your child what they do to show love. Say, “My eyes show love by looking at you when I speak. Saying kind words with my mouth and doing good things with my hands are also ways I show love.” Jesus sees us, He loves us, and He has good things planned for us too.
Have you ever tried to use a something electrical, like a toaster or a hair drier, and it hasn’t worked? Did you call out for a grown up to come fix it? Or did you check first to see if it was plugged into the power? Prayer is us plugging into God’s power. Plug in today!
Have you ever second guessed God’s power in confronting something that you struggle with? Have you ever boldly prayed to God about an issue or situation in your life? Take some time to write out a prayer to God about that issue or situation. Read it over. Does it sound like you have confidence in God’s ability? If not, write it again.