Have you ever failed at anything? Of course you have. Failure is common to all of us. There tends to be two types of failures. One that hurts more than the other. When we fail at something we have never attempted before our pride is hurt but we can shake it off with the mentality that we were not expected to succeed. But what about when we fail at something we had former and even continual success doing? That hurts more and we are left with the empty feeling of simply not being good enough.
In Mark 9 we find the disciples experiencing a significant failure in an area in which they had former success. A father brings his son to the disciples to see if they can help. The son suffers from several effects of demonic possession. The disciples attempt to cast out the demon but are totally unsuccessful. But back in Mark 6 we read of how Jesus sent all of them out to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the Kingdom of God. They had been incredibly successful in this endeavor before. So why are they met with failure in this situation?
Jesus arrives on the scene and after a conversation with the father He is able to quickly heal the boy. Once the disciples are alone with Jesus they sheepishly ask why there were not able to do something they previously had done so many times before. Jesus responds with a cryptic answer. He tells them this kind of demon can only come out through prayer.
In His response Jesus is pointing the disciples to the fact they had forgotten the source of their power. They forgot that their ability to heal and work miracles was tied to the authority and power Jesus had bestowed on them. Apparently over time they began to forget why they were able to see God do these things through them. They began to trust more in their own power than in the power that was available to be channeled through them.
Jesus summarizes this through the call to prayer. It is in prayer that we demonstrate our reliance on God. Prayer in essence is a declaration that God is all powerful and we are not. God is infinite and we are finite. God is limitless and we are limited. When we pray we are confessing our inadequacy and inability to do any good on our own. We ask God to work in and through us for our good and His glory.
I know there are several times in my life in which I too can develop the same mentality of the disciples in Mark 9. Seasons of success can make me believe the lie that these successes are my own doing. I can begin to trust more in my own power and strength and planning than on God. I too must continually take time to display my reliance on God through prayer.
How about you? Are there areas in your life in which you find yourself relying on your own strength or wisdom instead of God? Take time to confess this to God. Ask Him to work in and through you so that you too can declare like Paul that at the end of the day it was God’s grace that was at work in and through you (1 Corinthians 15:10).