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“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 9:28–29 (NIV)
What a journey these last few days have been, right? Jesus drove out an evil spirit from a young boy who’d been oppressed since infancy and given him new life! But now, Jesus and His disciples are alone. Confused, maybe a little embarrassed, and possibly discouraged, they questioned why they couldn’t cast out that demon when they’d cast out demons before. What was different here?
It’s interesting they didn’t know why they failed, even though Jesus spelled it out for them earlier in Mark 9:19 (NIV) when He said, “You unbelieving generation.” In Matthew’s account of this story, Jesus tells them, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 NIV). In Mark’s account, Jesus adds, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” In other words, they needed to pray by faith, in faith, and with faith.
Here, the disciples were like Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. While training with Yoda, he is directed to use the Force to lift his sunken X-Wing fighter out of the lake. He tries but can’t, saying, “It’s too big… You want the impossible.” Then, of course, Yoda succeeds in lifting the ship out of the water through the Force, and Luke says, “I don’t believe it,” to which Yoda responds, “That is why you fail.”
Like Luke, the disciples were caught up in the difficulty of the case and the stubbornness of the demon. They tried at first, but it didn’t work. But instead of taking that moment to pray in faith to the One who has proven faithful over and over, instead of calling on Him to do this mighty work and believing He could and would, they deduced they simply couldn’t drive it out.
Now to be clear, their faith wouldn’t have made it easier for God to work this miracle. He doesn’t need our faith to work. But He desires and requires faith in those who are His instruments. Where there is no faith, no amount of miraculous work will amount to anything (see Exodus and the Gospels for proof of this statement). And faith, my friends, is grown, developed, stretched, nurtured, pruned, fueled, and matured in prayer. Faith cannot grow where prayer is not present and persistent.
Do you want to accomplish great things in His name? Spend more time on your knees in intimate prayer and devotion. Grow in Him and in your relationship, and He will grow your faith! And as He grows your faith, you will see and experience His presence and power in, through, and around you in ways beyond what you could ever ask, think, or imagine!
Pause: What is the relationship between faith and prayer?
Practice: Commit to praying three times per day for the next seven days.
Pray: Father, I want more of You—not more power to do the impossible, not more wisdom for accomplishing wonders or living out my best life or walking in my purpose. I want more of You! You are my life, and You are all I need.
Everything else that comes with knowing You is a bonus. I thank You that I can know You and have an intimate, loving, deep, healthy, growing relationship with You, that I can be in Your presence, that Your Son Christ Jesus dwells within me. I pray that more and more I can “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” so that I would be daily, continually “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19 NIV). Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.