Mk 9:23-24 “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
Too often we feel as if we can only come to God in prayer with our positive attributes including faith. When, in reality, God invites us to come to Him with our deficiencies and voids usually rooted in honest, raw doubts that need to be heard by Him. In this chapter of Mark, we see man willing to come clean with the fine line between faith and doubt in his heart.
Here are three reasons why we MUST go to God in prayer with our unbelief:
Prayer with acknowledged unbelief protects us from public defeat. (Mk. 9:14-19)
Jesus addressed the crowd but especially His disciples with deep emotion. “O faithless generation” emphasizes the characteristic cause of all spiritual failure—lack of faith in God. The rhetorical questions further reflect Jesus’ continued distress over His disciples’ spiritual dullness. Yet He intended to act with power where they had failed, so He commanded, “Bring him unto me.”
Doubt that is never brought to the Lord in private prayer will always lead to public scandal. Doubt is not willing to passively dwell in a secret corner of your heart. For the benefit of those you are called to minister unto, please don’t think you are the exception. The father’s appeal to the disciples to exorcise the demon was legitimate because Jesus had given them authority over evil spirits (Mk. 6:7). Don’t allow prayerless doubt on your part to set up those who come to you for Christ-empowered deliverance to leave disillusioned. See disbelief is contagious. Your unsanctified doubt will plant seeds of doubt into the hearts of others around you who look up to you starting with your own family!
Prayer with acknowledged unbelief allows God to prove Himself. (Mk. 9:23-27)
In reply to Jesus’ compassionate inquiry, the father said his son had experienced such pathetic and near-fatal convulsions from childhood. The lad’s condition was long-standing and critical. The words, “If Thou canst do anything,” indicate that the disciples’ inability to expel the demon (v. 18) had shaken the father’s faith in Jesus’ ability. Jesus took up the father’s words of doubt, “If thou canst believe,” to show that the point was not His ability to heal the boy but the father’s ability to trust in God who can do what is humanly impossible (Mk. 10:27). Jesus then challenged the father not to doubt: Everything is possible for him who believes.
Faith that is only discovered through prayerfully confronted disbelief sets no limits on God’s power and submits itself to His will. When we pray to God with an “if” now and then, it allows us to honestly see God graciously honor what little faith we have with big kind of demonstrations of power and provision. The “if” in prayer quickly becomes a “since.”
Prayer with acknowledged unbelief keeps us dependent upon the Lord. (Mk. 9:28-29)
The father’s response was immediate. He declared his faith (“Lord, I believe”), but also acknowledged its weakness: “Help me overcome my unbelief!” This brings out an essential element of Christian faith—it is possible only with the help of the One who is its Object. This episode of desperate human need and the disciples’ failure contrasts sharply with the glory of the transfiguration. It shows the reality of living in the world in the absence of Jesus. The disciples from whom help could be expected (cf. Mark 6:7) were powerless. Mark 9:28–29 provides the key to understanding this incident. In Jesus’ absence they must live and work by faith in God, expressed through prayer.
If we are projecting only absolute confidence before God and man, we begin to trust in the “amazing caliber” of our faith more than the Object of our faith. Daily prayer-even on days filled with doubt-keep us in a posture of complete surrender and reliance upon the Lord. As one author put it succinctly, “When in doubt, pray it out!”