(This week I am reposting the top 5 Whole Life Worship blogs in 2013 – based on readership hits. Although this particular post was originally posted earlier in the year, it had consistent hits throughout 2013. I think it was popular because it really demonstrates what “real faith” means in real life. Enjoy! On Monday, I’ll be bringing brand new posts to this blog)
One of the most profound prayers in the Bible is found in Mark 9. A father watches helplessly as his son is being tormented by demonic powers. Jesus’ disciples cannot cast it out. Jesus comes onto the scene, having just been transfigured in glory on the Mount. But instead of casting out the demon, Jesus engages in a casual conversation with the father. The demon tosses the boy like a rag doll by now, and Jesus makes what appears to be an “unconcerned” comment to the father, “Everything is possible for one who believes” (v. 24). To which the father cries out to Jesus in desperation,
“I believe. Help my unbelief!”
In this prayer we see several things. First Jesus is neither casual nor unconcerned in this story. His actions are intentional. He is trying to draw out the father’s desperation. By waiting, the man becomes more and more aware of his son’s condition. He finally reaches a point of desperation. Desperation unlocks the power of faith.
Second, the prayer is steeped in humility. Not a false humility, but a humility based on reality. The father is helpless without God’s help. He cannot change his son’s condition. There is no contingency plan. There are no theological loopholes. The father realizes he has no merit that would warrant help. Either Christ helps him or his son is lost.
Third, the prayer is not focused on the problem, but on the Person. The father does not ask Jesus to heal his son. Rather, he asks Jesus for more faith (“help my unbelief”). Too often, my prayers are all about my situations, my predicaments, and my need. The focus on prayer should always be on God – yes, the One who answers prayer; but, more importantly, the One in whom we need to trust in a greater way than our predicament.
In praying this prayer, the father also took responsibility for his faith. He also said, “I believe,” meaning that he knew that his part was an active belief and trust in God. This was extremely important. While the answer to the prayer came from Christ’s power, the man had to essentially “let go and let God.” A greater faith would be given if he surrendered his trust to God.
I’ve seen this prayer be so powerful and effective in my own life. My victory over addictive habits in my life came as I prayed a similar prayer, “Lord, I choose to overcome this addiction, help my lack of overcoming power!” Or when I knew I needed to forgive someone who deeply offended me, “Lord, I forgive, help my unforgiving heart!” Or when I lacked love for person who seemed unlovable, “Lord, I choose to love this person, help my lack of compassion!”
This is the foundational prayer that leads to transformation. It is the humble realization that we are not yet at a place that we need to be – but can only get there by the grace of God. So we ask Him:
“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!”