The passage we will consider is about the son, possessed by a spirit that seizes him, slams him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, whom Jesus healed with prayer. So we ask, when and how does prayer produce results?
19 And Jesus answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When the boy saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And Jesus said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:19-29
This narrative is about having faith in the works of the LORD through His Messiah. However, when the question is raised about faith and prayer, there are people on each side of the equation. Does prayer and faith work, or doesn’t it?
The first thing to consider is that the LORD does not operate in the physical world with materialism. The need for material items is a human invention. Not that materialism is terrible; it is not a divine function. It is our free will that creates materialism and our need for it. Richard Foster’s book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, wrote that the LORD does not act on materialistic prayers, only spiritual prayers.
This statement is disheartening to many people who pray for all kinds of materials. I know an older woman who said she had lost an earring and prayed to the LORD to help her find it. A couple of days later, she found it and said her prayer worked. Another lady told me she prayed that the rainstorm would pass her home. It did, and she swears that her prayer caused it. Honestly speaking, neither of those prayers were the agent of what occurred. Unfortunately, pastors and church folk push the narrative that all prayers come true. You may not like to hear this, but that is a false understanding of prayer.
What happens is that people who pray for material things and do not get what they asked for often lose their faith. When I came into the ministry, I had to sell my house. The events of 9/11 occurred during the sale, and home sales stopped. I needed to sell the house because of the income drop that I experienced when going from a Computer Engineer to a Pastor in a rural area. I did not pray for the LORD to sell my house. Instead, I prayed that the LORD would send us a family who could learn about Jesus in the same way my family and I did. That is a spiritual prayer. Within five days, we had a reasonable offer. The new owners were about to start their family.
The bottom line is that the LORD does not interact on prayers about better jobs, fancy cars, and certainly not the lottery. However, I would venture to say that over 90% of people sitting in the pews believe they can pray for anything and get it. They take the Scripture where Jesus says just ask the LORD for what you want.
This is where I will remind you that the culture of Jesus’ day was vastly different from today. The people Jesus interacted with, in general, were poor peasants. They did not possess many material objects, and frankly, they were more concerned about food and water. They offered prayers to the LORD in thanksgiving for the basic necessities of life. In addition, prayer was listening to the voice of the LORD. Today we use a lot of words and have very little quiet time. Therefore, when Jesus said to ask the LORD in prayer, He was referring to food, water, and shelter.
If the church taught the original meaning of prayer and what prayer meant in Jesus’s day, perhaps more people would become believers in the LORD’s Messiah. There are not magical gifts when one comes to believe in Jesus’ message. Imitating Jesus does lead to the necessities of life and can undoubtedly lead to more. Most importantly, it leads to sanctification and entering eternal life with God. Jesus tells us to repent our sins. When that is done, and one lives a life in imitation of Jesus, our entrance into Heaven can occur.
We are here in this world to learn that the spiritual world is far more important than the material world. One is born into the world with nothing and will leave this world with nothing. The soul occupies a body so it can be refined. Many people become refined by the fire of this world. They learn to balance materialism versus spirituality. They learn that serving the LORD through Jesus’ example is the best way to live and to accumulate the knowledge necessary to live for an eternity in the LORD’s holy presence. The soul must be refined into perfection so that it can return to Heaven.
That is the bottom line of our existence. All we say and do must magnify the glory of Jesus on Earth. When one does this, their words and actions bring the love and grace of the LORD to us. It is not easy to exist in this world because it is composed of both the spiritual and material. Balance is essential and is a sign of a successful life.
Spiritual prayers are what Jesus was talking about when He said that the Father would answer prayers. Try to frame all your prayers inside a spiritual envelope. You will notice that material prayers will fade away and be replaced by spiritual prayers. As I noted, the prayer for the house sale turned into a spiritual event that got results. The spiritual prayer is what Jesus is telling us to do.
So, what are you waiting for?
The bottom line is that the LORD does not interact on prayers about better jobs, fancy cars, and certainly not the lottery. However, I would venture to say that over 90% of people sitting in the pews believe they can pray for anything and get it.
Please give us your thoughts on this article!
Did you agree?
Did you disagree?
Do you have something to add?
Do you have a personal experience you would like to share?
Rev. Dr. Michael H. Koplitz
Pastor Michael H. Koplitz, D.Min., Ph.D. is an ordained minister, author, teacher, and webmaster at BibleInteract. He currently lives in York Pennsylvania with his wife, Sandy, where he has been a pastor at the United Methodist Church for over 18 years.