The event we read about here in Mark 9:14-29 is preceded by the account of Jesus’ transfiguration. Leaving nine of His disciples behind, Jesus took only Peter, James, and John with Him “up to a high mountain by themselves.” (Mark 9:2)
Upon His return to the other disciples Jesus came upon a commotion. A large crowd was gathered around the disciples and an argument was taking place between the disciples and some scribes. Jesus asked what was going on. From the crowd emerged a man who explained to Jesus that his son was possessed by a demon and that he brought him to the disciples but they could not cast the demon out.
Hearing this, Jesus became exasperated and He rebuked His disciples for being “unbelieving.” Jesus asked that the man’s son be brought to Him. After a brief exchange with the man about faith, Jesus cast the demon out of his son. And for the first time since his childhood, the young man was free!
The disciples then asked Jesus a logical question. Why couldn’t they cast the demon out? It wasn’t as if they hadn’t done it before. Prior, Jesus had commissioned the disciples giving them authority over unclean spirits. And we read that they did, in fact, cast out many demons (Mark 6:7, 13). But why couldn’t they do it this time? And why did Jesus rebuke them? Verse 29 concludes with Jesus saying, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
That response from Jesus begs the simple question: If the disciples weren’t seeking to cast out the demon by prayer, what were they doing? Were they trying to beat it out of him? Were they looking for the magic word? How did they expect to do it? Did they pridefully assume, “Ah, we’ve done this before! We’ve got this!”
As we carry out the mission of the kingdom in the lives of others, it is vital we realize that this is not our enterprise. We cannot expect to succeed as God wills if we are relying on our own strength, wisdom, or abilities. Prayer brings us into alignment with God’s will and taps us into His power. It is a posture of humility and dependency. And the very practice of prayer indicates the kind of outcomes we are expecting. We dare not attempt to share the gospel with others without prayer.
Consider this: if we are not praying in our mission to share the gospel with the lost….what are we doing?
Prayer: Lord, as I bring your good news to others, remind me this is your work not mine; and that I am here to help you out with what you want to do in the lives of those you lead me to.