This topic is adapted from the Joseph Solomon YouTube channel.
In Mark 9, Jesus meets a boy who is under demonic attack.
Mark 9:14-24 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him. “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked. One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
The disciples tried to cast out the demon, but Jesus tells them that “this kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Whatever the disciples had been trying to that point was not driven by prayer – otherwise the demon would have come out!
We Don’t Pray Like We Should
Like the disciples who failed to pray to overcome demonic oppression, we, too, can turn primarily to our own efforts and wisdom for fighting demonic oppression and sin when what we really should be doing is going to the Lord in prayer.
There are things in life that we can overcome without prayer. We typically don’t pray for God to help us tie our shoes in the morning, and we probably only pray for “traveling mercies” if we’re afraid of flying or have a long road trip ahead of us, not if we’re popping over to the store for milk and eggs.
Nonetheless, there are things in the Christian life that can only be accomplished through prayer. If you want to know God’s unique will for your life, scripture will provide you a baseline of truth, but it is not going to show you whether you should be a banker instead of a farmer. In the same way, we can only grow spiritually so much before our spiritual development becomes stifled due to lack of prayer.
If you have struggled with a sin pattern for a long time, have you deeply committed the matter to God in prayer, not just speaking to him and asking from him, but opening your eyes and ears to what he is saying to you on the matter? Joseph says that “Prayer is the sign that you are beyond your own power. We’ve reached our own limit, and only God can intervene to help us.”
Don’t Just Pray, but Live Prayerfully
Prayerlessness shows that we don’t think we need God’s help. Even Jesus in the verses from Mark above does not actually pray before casting out the demon. This may be because that as God-in-flesh, he did not need to pray to cast out the demon, or it could be that his life was characterized by prayerfulness in all situations. We know this to be true about Jesus from the many times he slipped away from teaching the crowds and his disciples to pray.
If we live a life of prayerfulness, it is like we have been training for a marathon. To win a marathon you not only have to run 26.2 miles the day-of, but you must spend months training beforehand to finish on race day. You’ll run several marathons to run a marathon. Prayer is no different. We must condition ourselves toward prayer by living prayerfully. This is not “a” decision, but a continuing decision. As Joseph says in this video, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”
Only God Knows What Today Will Bring
As Joseph says, “We cannot wait until we are presented with obvious temptation or evil to begin praying.” We might not ever have our children become demon-possessed, but there are going to be hard days that drive us to our knees. Like it or not, life is going to throw “marathons” at you. Are you training for them now? Stubborn demons and stubborn sins can only be fully overcome in the Christian life by prayer.
Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Rate your prayer life from 1-10. Why do you rate it this way? Explain.
- What is a situation in your life when you had not been praying but realized you should have been from the beginning? What happened?
- Joseph says, “Prayer is the sign that you are beyond your own power. ” What does he mean by this, and how does it apply to your life?
- Would you describe yourself more as someone who prays, or as someone who has a “training regiment” of prayer? Explain.
- “All of your efforts will be in vain without prayer.” Explain why you agree or disagree with this statement.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.