When Jesus sent His disciples from village to village to preach, heal the sick and cast out demons (Mark 6:7-13), the disciples appear to have been successful. But while Peter, James and John were with Jesus on the mountain, the other disciples were met with a challenge. A man brought his son to them to be healed of a spirit that made him mute and subject to seizures. The disciples were unable to drive out this spirit.

Jesus' initial response was unexpected: "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" These disciples, who Jesus taught and sent out, had been successfully performing these acts as He taught them, but Jesus sounds like He was scolding them.

In this passage, belief seems to be central to the problem:

  • "O unbelieving generation..." Jesus exclaims as He learns of their dilemma (Mark 9:19)
  • "Everything is possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23)
  • "I do believe..." the father says, then asks Jesus, "help me to overcome my disbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

Certainly the spirit believed, too. Because at Jesus' command it made quite a scene as it left the son. (Mark 9:26) and the gathering crowd believed.

Maybe the disciples had become a little over-confident in their success, and had neglected their training by failing to pray prior to attempting to cast out the spirit? Had they obtained the confirmation of belief from the boy's father?

How about you? What unanswered prayer may be rooted in your own unbelief, or in the lack of belief of those with whom you have shared your prayer? Have you affirmed, "I do believe!", and have you prayed that God might help you overcome your unbelief?"