When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Mark 9:14-19
As I face 2018, I confess that I am in a bit of a funk.
I had the most wonderful Christmas. The highlight of it was that my son and daughter in law surprised me and showed up at my door Christmas Eve. I didn’t think that I would be able to see them. But they came, and my whole family got to be together for the holiday. I was beyond ecstatic. Here are a few scenes —
But now I feel like my grandson after we took him to a the small town of Valley’s Christmas celebration. He rode the merry go round. He saw Santa. He slid down the slide bunches of times, and jumped in several bouncy houses.
But when it was time to go, he got an attitude and kicked the ground.
He wanted to do more.
I want more — more time with my children, more ways for God to work. I know it’s ungrateful, and I am so awed and thankful for the many things God has done.
But now I am facing the year ahead with a feeling of insufficiency. There are things my heart is looking for in the new year that I feel totally inadequate to help bring about.
Today’s reading is perfect for this, because it gives me my answer. The disciples were also feeling totally inadequate. They couldn’t heal the boy. I didn’t include the scriptures for whole story, but Jesus did drive out the evil spirit from the boy, and at the end, when his disciples asked him why they couldn’t drive it out, he said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29)
This year, things will only be accomplished by prayer. This doesn’t just mean intense prayer, or prolonged prayer, although these are good. But Jesus healed the boy in an instant, not with many words.
His disciples were stymied, because they had previously been able to drive out many evil spirits. (Mark 6:13) So there was something they were missing here, and Jesus said the missing ingredient was prayer, but not just any prayer. It had to be the kind of prayer that was deep and daily, the kind that would bring them into a more faithful and powerful relationship with God.
That is what we need: deep and daily prayer.
We need to pray with listening ears, so that God will give us wonderful sustaining insights. “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” (Ps 16:7)
We need to pray so that our faith is strengthened, by putting our requests before God and waiting in thankful expectation. (Ps 5:3, Phil 4:6)
We need to pray so that we will remain in Christ, close to his power, just as he remained close to God. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7
And much more. What are the ways you will deepen your prayer life in 2018?
There are daunting things we will face in the coming year. Will we be an unbelieving generation? Or will we be able to face them with a strong faithful relationship with God?
“This kind can only come out with prayer.” That’s the only way we can face the challenges to come. That’s the only way to deal with our feelings of insufficiency. That’s the New Year’s resolution we need.