When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
– Mark 9:14-29
“His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ ” (Mark 9:28). The answer lies in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “This kind can come out by nothing but” concentrating on Him, and then doubling and redoubling that concentration on Him. We can remain powerless forever, as the disciples were in this situation, by trying to do God’s work without concentrating on His power, and by following instead the ideas that we draw from our own nature. We actually slander and dishonor God by our very eagerness to serve Him without knowing Him.
When you are brought face to face with a difficult situation and nothing happens externally, you can still know that freedom and release will be given because of your continued concentration on Jesus Christ. Your duty in service and ministry is to see that there is nothing between Jesus and yourself. Is there anything between you and Jesus even now? If there is, you must get through it, not by ignoring it as an irritation, or by going up and over it, but by facing it and getting through it into the presence of Jesus Christ. Then that very problem itself, and all that you have been through in connection with it, will glorify Jesus Christ in a way that you will never know until you see Him face to face.
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
The ‘when’ at the beginning of the Scripture is immediately after the Transfiguration. The nine remaining disciples (with Peter, James and John with Jesus on the mountain) had the authority to remove evil spirits, but they could not.
Jesus says this type can only be removed by prayer. So, I have heard countless sermons on becoming a better prayer warrior using this passage or sermons that jump on the boy’s father’s lack of faith or maybe the disciple’s lack of faith in extension to the father’s statement. I don’t know if I have ever heard Chambers’ message. Maybe I did ‘hear’ it one Sunday when my mind drifted. Satan attacks you with your to-do list when the sermon starts. Or is that just me? I combat Satan these days with a notebook and active note taking – like there is going to be a test.
What Chambers flips in this passage is what Jesus says becoming who Jesus is.
What Jesus is saying here is “Who do you pray to?” This type of evil spirit does not come out based on your strength, not even the strength that the Son of Man grants to you. You need the power of God to do this. You need to realize that whatever power you have been given, that power is God within you. Not you. Praise the Lord that He promises that the Holy Spirit comes to stay. We’d be such weaklings if the Holy Spirit took a day off and went to the beach.
Just two chapters later in Mark 11:23, Jesus says that if we had enough faith we could move a mountain into the sea. I don’t know about you, but I have not seen many mountains flying into seas lately. If we had someone with that much faith and the allowance that it is within God’s will, how many mountains would it take before Satan had the person convinced that it was his power moving the mountains instead of God’s power. It’s that Lord Acton thing about absolute power corrupting absolutely, all over again. Maybe that’s why we don’t see a lot of mountains flying into the sea.
I am a victim of so much false teaching from my youth. Only in recent years have I heard a lot of talking about the personal relationship with Jesus being emphasized. And Chambers is talking about that intimate relationship with Jesus forty years before I was born. In my youth, God was God and we were not. We needed to know our place. But if God lives within us, He does not just sit there pushing buttons. He does not sit in our ear telling us when we are wrong. He does not sit, like my father’s father, quoting Scripture, like a sword, that cuts each time we glance in the wrong direction.
No, God is our Heavenly Father. The word ‘Abba” is used. That’s more like ‘Daddy’. Jesus calls us His brother or sister. Just with that thought alone, does that change how you pray, how much you pray, and what you pray about?
This type comes out only through prayer. To whom do you pray? And what relation is He to you?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.