A story of a distraught father, his demon-possessed child, confused disciples, and a miracle of Jesus, points us to our first weapon in our counterattack against the evil one.
When Jesus returned from the mountain of His transfiguration in Mark chapter 9, he found a crowd gathered. While He was away, His disciples had failed in their attempt to drive a demon out of a child and the desperate father turned to Jesus.
After describing the child’s pain, the father pleads, ” ‘But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘ “If you can?” All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’ When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.’ After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead!’ But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ And He said to them, ‘This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer‘ ” (Mk 9:22-29).
The first weapon in our defense against the evil schemes of Satan is prayer. The boy in the story was possessed by a demon, a clear expression of a satanic attack. Jesus defeated the demon, conquered Satan, and restored the child to safety when He cast out the unclean spirit. And in an incredible revelation, Jesus even tells us how He did it.
The disciples, who had failed at the same task, quizzed Jesus, “Why could we not drive the demon out?” Jesus replied, “This kind can only come out by prayer.” Our prayers are a crucial and necessary weapon in our struggle with evil. Prayer is our number one line of attack. Let’s look at another story about prayer.
“Now Jesus was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.” For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.” ‘ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; how much more, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ ” (Lk 18:1-8).
Jesus lays out the point of this story in the first verse. Jesus is teaching His followers to pray at all times and to not lose heart; to not give up. The widow in this parable is honored for her persistence. And Jesus connects her persistence to our own persistence in prayer with His promise that “how much more” God will bring justice to His children who call upon Him.
If we see God as represented by the unrighteous judge, we may conclude that our prayers “bother” God to the point of forcing an answer out of Him. But that is not the point at all. Jesus is not comparing God to the judge. He is contrasting God with the judge. And the key to understanding this is the “how much more” comparison is verse 7. God is not like the judge – answering our requests out of an attitude of annoyance – but is much more in favor of answering our prayers out of our relationship; we being His children, His chosen ones.
Our prayers do not “bother” God; they “honor” God. He has given us prayer as a way to connect deeply with Him as we implore God’s intervention in our struggle with the schemes of the evil one. And this parable teaches us, as my fried Dave Gibson said many times, that when it comes to prayer, “it is never too late to start … and it is always too soon to quit.”
Now there is a second, and I think a little less known, weapon in our arsenal. Both of these stories hinted at it. In the first story of miraculous healing, Jesus told the boy’s father, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23). In the second story, Jesus asks aloud, related to the widow’s persistence, “What kind of faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when He comes?” (Lk 18:8). Somehow prayer mixed with faith launches us with possibility. We will explore that connection next time.