Mark 9:14-29

Have you ever been embarrassed—flushed cheeks and all—by a movie’s leading character? That’s how I feel every time I read Mark’s account of “The Healing of the Boy with the Unclean Spirit” (Mark 9:14-29). I want to signal, “Hush!” before the dad has a chance to say, “If you can…” to Jesus.

Can you hear the shock in Jesus’ voice, reverberating through the pages of our New Testaments?

“If I can?” Jesus asks. Then his tone softens. “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).

American screenwriter, Blake Snyder, turned the world of screen writing upside-down when he coined the phrase, “Save the Cat,” to describe a scene in which the protagonist does something to earn the audience’s favor. According to Mr. Snyder, any movie that is worth seeing contains this scene.

The “Save the Cat” scene in Mark’s account occurs when the boy’s father, God bless him, cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

At this moment, I want to stand on my chair and give a big whoop-whoop for the dad’s honesty and humility. He says the words that I want to say when I am faced with a gut-wrenching, seemingly impossible situation.

Good screenplays contain a secondary plot, as well. Mark doesn’t fail us in this area, either. He offers us the story of the disciples who are crushed by their inability to cure the boy. They retreat to the privacy of a home, gathering up the courage to ask Jesus their pent-up question. “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” (Mark 9:28).

(While we sympathize with the disciples, we can’t help but wonder if they are suffering from a wee bit of pride. After all, they previously enjoyed tremendous success casting our demons and healing the afflicted.

Jesus responds, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).

Effective Prayer Life

Our Lord’s answer is crucial for all believers. He reminds us that apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Prayer isn’t about us; it’s about him. Prayer changes us by drawing us into a closer relationship with him. It exposes our pride, redirects our focus and strengthens our faith in his ability to rescue, redeem, restore and renew the brokenness, which we encounter every day.

In the same way a “branch cannot bear fruit, unless it abides in the vine” (John15:4), our prayers of intercession for others and our prayers for ourselves will not bear fruit unless we remain in Christ. If we don’t have a relationship with Jesus, our prayers of intercession, like those of the disciples, will wither and die.