This passage of scripture has come up so many times in different contexts in my life over the past few weeks. So I've been thinking about it a lot - and God has been revealing some pretty sweet things to me! I dig that about Him!
So here we go - while Jesus was up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John, the rest of the disciples continued their ministry in the valley. One distraught father brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples, but they were unable to drive out the demon. Jesus had given them the authority to correct this kind of problem (Mark 3:15-16), and it was nothing new to them - they had done it so many times before (Matthew 10:1). So what was the problem?
After Jesus had returned from the mountain, the agonized father approached and knelt before Him, saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." (Matthew 17:15-16). Mark expresses in his account of this situation that the father asks Jesus "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." To which Jesus replies, "'If you can?'" (Mark 9:14-29) I can just picture Jesus - "ARE YOU KIDDING ME PEOPLE?!?!? - how many times do I have to show you that I can do ANYTHING??" Of course, Jesus healed the boy, but not until after he puts the responsibility of the boy's healing on the father. You see, to Jesus, it wasn't a question of IF He could heal the boy, Jesus CAN do anything, period. The real question is, did the Father believe that He could heal the boy? Do we believe that He can?
Later on in this passage, the disciples questioned Jesus as to why they had failed. Jesus' reply was pretty straightforward - you don't believe. ("Because you have so little faith." - Matthew 17:20) Jesus told them that faith as infinitesimal as the tiniest of seeds can work miracles - but apparently the disciples lacked even that degree of trust when they attempted to liberate the boy on their own.
It's all about faith. Faith can be cultivated in one way: through prayer (see Mark 9:29). It seems the disciples had forgotten this fundamental discipline. You guys - without prayer we are as helpless as the disciples in the face of satan's schemes! It is not enough to be called into a ministry, to be gifted for a ministry, to have experience in a ministry, or even to have achieved some success in a ministry - we must continually practice the discipline of real prayer as we do what Jesus asks of us. This goes for EVERYTHING we do in life. I believe we can be in line with God's will for our lives, and still miss some of it - when we aren't praying.
Neglecting to pray robs us of our power - the power that Jesus Himself gave us - and can reduce our faith to a level of usefulness in God's kingdom that is far smaller than what God desires to exercise in us. That's what I mean by missing some of it. God may have things planned for us - but when we are not equipped with His power through prayer - we can not effectively battle. So we feel defeated, we get frustrated, and we give up. Satan wins this battle.
Well - I'm done with satan winning any battles! He's such a liar and a cheat and just a big jerk! (Quit being such a jerk, you big - jerk!) I believe as we draw closer to our precious Lord Jesus, we will echo the words of the apostle Paul, who found the secret to his contentment in the source of his strength in Jesus alone: "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). Oh Lord, give me the grace to exercise that kind of faith...to believe you can do everything...and live my life in a manner that reflect that belief!