Help My Unbelief

I have selected an inspiring verse from the Bible for today’s discussion.
Mark 9:29 is the text for today.
But before we go to the core of the verse, let us try to understand the circumstance in which Jesus spoke the verse.

The event of Jesus’ transfiguration on a high mountain is recorded in Mark 9.
Theologians are not sure of the details or place of the mountain.
The incident happened six days after the conversation recorded in Mark 8.
The conversation in Mark 8 goes like this:
Jesus asked His disciples: "Who do men say that I am?"
The disciples answered that men say that Jesus is John the Baptist, Elijah and some other prophets.
Then Jesus asked them: "But who do you say that I am?"
Suddenly Peter answered: "You are the Christ."

Then Jesus continued to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer, will be killed, and after three days rise again.
Peter felt it so bad and expressed his displeasure.
But Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

Six days after this conversation, Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and went to the top of a mountain. (Mark 9:2)
There Jesus was transfigured before them.
His clothes became shining, exceedingly white.
And the disciples saw Elijah and Moses, talking with Jesus.
After the incident, they came down from the mountain.

When they came to the valley, they saw a great multitude around the disciples there.
And the father of a boy came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.
Because you were absent and the case was so severe, I spoke to Your disciples so that they should cast out the demon.
But they could not.

And Jesus turned to his disciples and rebuked them calling them: "O faithless generation”.
Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!"
The spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him.
Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

And after that occurred the following conversation between Jesus and His disciples.

Mark 9: 28, 29
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?"
 29 So He said to them, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting." (NKJV)

In this short message, we are focusing our attention on verse 29.
What did Jesus mean when He said about prayer and fasting in this verse?
Did He advise His disciples to pray and fast in order to cast out demons from a human?

This case is related by both Matthew and Luke, but it is greatly amplified in Mark's account, and many new circumstances related. 
And there are quite a number of theologians who argue that there are some kind of demons that would leave a person only through fasting and praying.
But there are circumstantial problems to this argument.

Technical interpretation to this verse is also available.
Some theologians say that in the parallel passage in Matthew 17, the verse is absent in many original manuscripts.
Some others say that the word “fasting” is not found in the manuscripts of Mark 9.
But here we are not discussing any of these technical explanations of the verse.
We are trying to understand the verse from the text itself.

Jesus commissions seventy disciples

In Luke 10 we read about the appointment of seventy of his followers to go into cities and villages.
Remember, it is a group of seventy people, more in number than His chosen 12 disciples.
They went and came back after some days and reported the events happened in their ministry.
They were amazed because “even the demons are subject to us in Your name."
And Jesus responded:

Luke 10:19 "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (NKJV)

Read the verse carefully; Jesus said, “I give you the authority to trample on” “all the power of enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
Jesus did not exclude any kind of demon from the authority He gave to His disciples.

How to exercise the authority?

How should we exercise the authority that Jesus has given us?

In Mark 16:15-18, Jesus gives the Great Commission to His disciples.
The Commission in Mark must be read along with the Commission recorded in Matthew 28:18-20.
Both these passages together make the Great Commission.
Now in connection with our present discussion, let us read only one verse.

Mark 16:17 "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; (NKJV)

Jesus gives a clear direction to his disciples how to cast out the demons; it must be done in His name.

I know that the explanation has not become clear enough.
Some may still argue that, we can pray and fast in Jesus name and so it may be a method to cast out demons.
So let us closely watch how Jesus expelled demons from humans.

How Jesus expelled demons from humans?

Jesus never prayed and fasted to cast out demons from human beings.
Look at the above incident we read from Mark 9.

The demon possessed boy and his father came to Jesus.
Jesus did not ask them to go and pray and fast for certain days to cast out the demons.
Jesus did not tell them that the particular demon in the boy is of a special genus and so He will pray and fast so that the demons may leave the boy.
Instead Mark records what Jesus did in the following verse:

Mark 9:25   When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!"  (NKJV)

That means, Jesus rebuked and commanded the evil spirit to go out of the boy.
Not only in this incident, nowhere else did Jesus asked anybody to pray and fast in order to cast out demons from human beings.

How did Apostles expel demons from humans?

How did Apostles expel demons from humans?
Let us look at a similar situation they faced.

Apostle Paul and his disciple Timothy were going to prayer.
On the way a slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met them.
The girl followed them and cried out that they were the servants of the Most High God, who proclaimed salvation.
Though the prophecy was true, since she continued this for many days, the Apostle was annoyed.
So Paul rebuked the evil spirit.

Acts 16:18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour.  (NKJV)

Here Apostle is commanding the evil spirit to go out.
He did not pray and fast so that the evil spirit may go out.

Nowhere in the Book of Acts or in epistles, we are instructed to pray and fast in order to cast out demons from humans.

What did Jesus mean?

Still the question remains: what did Jesus mean by saying that: "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."
As we saw above Jesus or his disciples never fasted and prayed in order to cast out demons.
Even after the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles never fasted and prayed in order to cast out demons.
At all occasions, Jesus and his disciples rebuked or commanded evil spirits to leave humans.

Let us go back to the incident as recorded in Mark 9.
Jesus was confronted by the father and the son possessed with the evil spirit.
Jesus came to know that the case was brought to his disciples in His absence and they utterly failed to heal the boy.
And then Jesus turned to his disciples and rebuked them calling them: "faithless generation”.

Here Jesus is explicitly stating the reason for the failure of the disciples.
They were a “faithless generation.”
That means they had no faith to cast out the demon.

The story continues.
The father requested Jesus to have compassion on them and help them.
As an answer, Jesus did not asked the father or the son to go and pray and fast, so that the demon will leave the boy.
Jesus did not said to the father that the demon in the boy is a special kind and He cannot cast him out as He used to do with a rebuke or command from His mouth.
But Jesus only asked for faith in Him, from the father of the boy, saying that, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."
The answer of the father has a hidden truth in it.

Mark 9:24  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (NKJV)

The father is doing two things here:

1.      He declares his faith in Jesus – “Lord I believe”.
2.      He requests Jesus to assist and supply what is lacking in his faith – “help my unbelief”.

The phrase “help my unbelief” is a request to fill him with a better faith.
He is asking for power, strength and grace for a stronger faith.
He is admitting that it is useless concealing the weakness of his faith.
He is confessing that there is an unbelief that still struggles in his heart.
He disowns the disbelief; He wrestles with it, he is seeking the help of Jesus to conquer it.
And Jesus helped him and filled him with a better faith.

Then Jesus commanded the evil spirit to go out of the boy and never to enter him again.
This is the true picture of the marvelous event.

Let us continue to follow Jesus and His disciples.
When they reached the house for taking rest, the disciples went to him privately.
They asked Jesus, why they could not cast out the demon.
And Jesus answered:

Dear children, look back into the incident.
You tried to cast out the demon and failed.
Surely, that demon was a tough one, a different kind than others.
But you had no sufficient faith and the father of the boy also lacked faith.
When I came down, I stood there in your place.
I have faith sufficient to cast out demons of any kind.
And suddenly, the father cried to help his unbelief; and I filled him with a better and stronger faith.
Now there, I stood with faith sufficient to cast out the demon and the father of the boy also was filled with faith.
And I commanded and the demon went out at once.

So, dear disciples, if you want to cast out this kind of tough demons, you pray and fast for better and stronger faith.
Prayer and fasting is the only way to a better and stronger faith.


Let me cut short this short message.
It is faith that works miracles in our life.
And faith is always a gift from God.
Pray for it. Fill your heart with a better faith. And work miracles for the Kingdom of God.
Every miracle is an evidence of the presence of the Kingdom of God.

May God bless you abundantly!