He had had enough. For years he had stood helplessly, watching his child suffer.
He could barely remember the sound of his son’s voice. A spirit had long ago rendered the boy mute. And as if that were not enough, it would from time to time seize him in such a way as to cause convulsions, foaming at the mouth, sometimes attempting to burn him or drown him.
This was not something a father could fix. And it was not something a father could bear. He took his son to Jesus.
In Jesus’ absence, the disciples attempted to cast out the spirit. They couldn’t do it. We don’t know what they did, but whatever it was, whatever they tried, it was ineffective. Frustrated, they ended up arguing with some scribes who had been spectators to their failure. When Jesus finally arrived he found a scene of utter powerlessness: humiliated disciples, desperate father, afflicted boy.
So Jesus did what no one else could do. He drove out the spirit. He restored the boy to his father, whole and well.
Later, in private, the disciples got up the nerve to ask, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
**********As many times as I’ve read this story I’m continually perplexed by the final line. “This kind comes out only by prayer.”
I’m perplexed because I’ve asked the same question the disciples asked. “Why couldn’t I do it?” Why couldn’t I make the situation right, why couldn’t I get through to that person, why couldn’t I get the win, why couldn’t I save the day?
And I’m perplexed by Jesus’ answer because I’ve prayed. I’ve sought his help. I’ve asked for his grace. Maybe you’ve prayed too. You’ve prayed for your child, you’ve prayed for your marriage, you’ve prayed for a job, you’ve prayed to get well. And ‘this kind’ – whatever that is – simply will not budge.
I’d like to be able to explain Jesus’ peculiar answer to his disciples. I don’t have a good explanation. What I have is more of a hunch. Earlier this week we called prayer a weapon. But prayer is more than that. Sometimes prayer is a window. We can’t just wield prayers, use them like clubs and set them aside. Sometimes we need to open a window to God’s power and grace, like letting air and light flood a room.
We won’t do anything against ‘this kind’ by simply saying prayers. We need prayer – the kind of prayer that opens our lives to a power that comes from beyond us. This kind of prayer calls for more yielding and less wielding.
How will you yield to God’s power today? Where in your life do you need to open a window?
With our prayer today, O God, we want to open a window to the light of your presence and the power of your grace. We bring our lives to you now, especially those things that we cannot fix and cannot bear on our own. You know ‘this kind’ of thing in every life, and we look to you for help and strength today, through Jesus our lord. Amen.