Prayer and Compassion

Mark 9: 14-29
Sir 1: 1-10 / Psalm 93

‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you?’
(Mark 9:19)

Should evil keep my soul in chains,
Where else to turn to for relief?
In You alone my hope remains,
Lord, help me with my unbelief.

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.”

“O 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?” He answered, “From childhood. 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 him 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 evil 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)


After His transfiguration, Jesus is confronted by the sight of His other apostles arguing with some scribes. When He asked them what they were arguing about, a man told our Lord that he had brought his son who was possessed by a demon to Jesus’ apostles, but they were unable to expel the evil spirit from the boy.

This Gospel passage seems to be showing the human side of Jesus. He was getting impatient with the slow development of His apostles’ faith. Coming down from the mountain where He was apprised of His nearing crucifixion, Jesus knew He didn’t have much time left with His apostles. It was obvious to Him that His apostles were not able to exorcise the evil spirit from the boy because they were more concerned with their power to heal and exorcise (to ‘one-up’ those skeptical scribes) than to ask the Father in prayer and to show compassion to the father and his distressed son. Thus He showed His compassion by asking the father about the history of his son’s evil entrapment. He was also able to draw out what little faith the father possessed. Lack of faith prevented the apostles from exorcising the evil spirit, while what little faith the father of the boy showed was enough to bring about God’s miracle.

Jesus shows us again that having faith is more important than being healed. And having gifts of the Holy Spirit (like healing) does not necessarily mean that we have a strong faith either. In all instances, we must turn to God in prayer, whether to ask for somebody’s healing or to be exorcised of an evil influence. When our a brother in our community decided it was time to stop his heavy smoking habit, he turned to God for help, and surrendered his addiction to Him in prayer. He said he could not believe that it seemed almost effortless, without any withdrawal effects. It was at that time when he saw that only God can help us overcome all our addictions. And then his greater spiritual healing followed. He is now a renewed non-smoker.

Father God, we are always besieged by the demon of doubt; please cure us of our unbelief, so that our faith may grow, and we may become closer to You. Amen.

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