Mark 9:29 - Failure in the Face of Evil
This kind can come out only by prayer.Mark 9:29
Failure. It is something we have all experienced in our lives. Sometimes it is something that happens at school. Sometimes it is something that happens at work. Sometimes it is something that happens in relationships, our relationships with others as well as our relationship with the Lord. We look at a job that failed or a marriage that failed and we ask the question, “Why?” We look at our failure in the battle against sin and evil and we ask the question, “Why?”
Failure. It is something that the disciples of Jesus experienced when they could not drive out the evil spirit from the boy whose father had brought him to Jesus. The father said to Jesus,
I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.Mark 9:18.
Their failure was highlighted all the more when Jesus came along and drove the spirit out.
He had the strength to do it, but apparently they did not.
Failure. It leads the disciples of Jesus to ask the question, “Why?” On previous occasions they had driven out demons. So it is all the more frustrating to them that on this occasion they could not. The answer of Jesus is, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
From the words “this kind” we learn that demons have varying degrees of strength. This particular demon had a strong grip. We know this for a number of reasons. First of all, we know the strong grip of this evil spirit because he had possessed this boy from childhood. Second of all, we know the strong grip of this spirit because on many occasions it exercised power over him, seeking to kill him. Finally, we know the strong grip of this spirit because when it heeded Jesus’ command to come out of the boy it left him for dead. The disciples had underestimated the power of evil and so they had failed in the face of it.
Why? They failed in the face of evil because they had not prayed. What is Jesus teaching his disciples here? What is He teaching you? At first glance one might say He is teaching us about the power of prayer. Maybe you have heard that phrase before. But He is not teaching us about the power of prayer. He is teaching us about the practice of prayer, which connects you to the power of God!
When you look back to the earlier part of the story you see this power of God at work in Jesus. He drove out the evil spirit from that boy. The demon’s grip was deep and strong. But Jesus by his divine power drove that evil spirit out of the boy with the command, “Come out of him and never enter him again.” And the demon obeyed. Likewise, the Lord Jesus has the power to drive out the evil that has a grip on your heart. For you to be redeemed from the grip of evil by the power of the Lord Jesus is not a matter of “can.” It is a matter of faith. Jesus says in Mark 9:23, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
The person who knows that everything is possible for him who believes is the person who prays. The practice of prayer that Jesus teaches us is the prayer of faith. In prayer you are reaching out to God, believing that He has the power to act in your life. The disciples failed. We fail too. We fail when we seek to live in our own strength. We fail when we seek to do battle with sin and evil in our own power. We fail when we underestimate what power “this kind” of evil has in our lives.
The answer to such failure is not prayer on its own. You can’t pray enough to overcome evil. That is why with these words of the Lord Jesus we are not led to speak about the power of prayer. You can’t pray hard enough, often enough, or well enough to overcome evil. But you can reach out to the One who has overcome evil through his suffering and death on the cross. That is the practice of prayer. It is reaching out to the Lord Jesus whose power in the face of evil is beyond question. His power can overcome evil in your life so that you do not fail. You need only ask for his help.