I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!
The distressed cry of the father in Mark 9 resonates with many of us, though perhaps for different reasons. I mean most of us aren’t coming to Jesus with a child possessed with an unclean spirit. But we are coming to him with something, a difficult marriage, the loss of a loved one, an illness, a job change, etc. And we are wondering, Can God help me? Jesus, of course, provides the healing both the father and the boy need, reminding them (and us) all things are indeed possible for him who believes.
As I ponder the father’s cry for help, though, I can’t help think of James’ warning. Ask God, but don’t doubt. Don’t expect to get anything from God apart from faith (paraphrased, obviously, from James 1). I resonate here with Luther’s struggle with James. For different reasons he called it an epistle of straw. James tells us we are simply being tossed by the waves when we ask with doubt.
A number of things might be said here but for now it will suffice to say that sometimes our prayers may be like the father’s. He asked for help for his child and then he had to ask for help for himself to overcome his unbelief. Jesus answered both of his prayers. Jesus healed his son and Jesus gave the father reason to believe. I suspect the next time the man prayed he did so with much greater confidence.
It’s not a bad prayer in the midst of our own despair—I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!