23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)
With unbelievers, I love this truth from Scripture because of just how man is in light of God. This father whose child was demon possessed was at a loss on what to do. This demon it is said was “deaf and dumb”, and nothing the disciples of Jesus did or said could cast it out. The child got even more violent.
The father was desperate, but was at his breaking point as well when Jesus arrived. He asked Jesus to show compassion and help him. Jesus responded with “if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes”. The father immediately understood what Jesus was saying, that he must first examine himself for faith.
Now the interesting part comes in his response. His first reaction was a lie, “Lord I believe” but knowing who he was speaking to, God in the flesh, he stopped and then said “help my unbelief” which was the truth. He didn’t believe in other words, and admitted this to Jesus. He tried to believe, but didn’t have faith that God could help him. Probably after seeing the disciples fail miserably to help him.
Jesus then cast the demon out, leaving the disciples wondering why they couldn’t do this since Jesus employed this power unto them. And Jesus in a very short admonition responded with “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29
What was the prayer Jesus was talking about? “Lord help my unbelief” Something the disciples skipped was this prayer. The fasting is mentioned, because fasting leads to repentance. The teaching was both to the father and to the disciples. So by this, Jesus was indicating that they were not going to be able to just willy nilly cast out demons, prayer and fasting must accompany this, which was also a call for DISCERNMENT. They were to discern the asking, was it one who if this sign was performed would just go on unbelieving?
The point here is the sheer honesty of the father, he admitted his unbelief to God and asked for help! Some go a lifetime thinking all the while by pride shouting “I believe” but internally they have NO faith, and usually this comes out in a dire circumstance. It is easy to say “I believe” when great and wonderful things occur in your life, but when your child is dying or some terrible thing occurs, will you be able to say this? If not, say that prayer “Lord help my unbelief”, be honest and watch how God works!
It should cut to the heart at the external believers who get angry and vitriolic if their faith is questioned. Make no mistake, Jesus questioned the father’s faith and instead of getting angry, he lied,and then quickly repented and told the the truth.
The children’s story of the “The Little Train that Could” is a mirror to this. It wasn’t until that train in the fictional story internally believed he could, that he reached the top. Before this, he just said the words “I think I can”. God changes that “I think I can” to “I know I can”.