As you interact on social media and watch the news, do you ever grow frustrated about harsh realities that you feel powerless to address? Do you ever feel like you don’t want to hear any more bad news? Are you heartbroken about friends who are diagnosed with incurable illness or have to go through the painful cure of radiation and chemotherapy for cancer treatment? The ills of this world can become too much.
When evil is most overwhelming, we have prayer. After the Transfiguration, when Jesus took His inner circle up to the mountain to reveal his physical glory to them, the rest of the disciples were in the valley fighting evil with the tools Jesus had given. Even after being trained by Jesus Himself, they faced an evil that was too much for them. You can read the dramatic retelling of this story in Mark 9:14-32, Matthew 17:14-19-23; and Luke 9:37-45. Mark’s (and Matthew's) gospel gives this detail. Once the disciples were away from the crowd they asked Jesus why they could not heal the boy from the demon. Mark 9:28-29: After Jesus had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Really, had the disciples neglected to pray? How did Jesus know? Hadn’t they used the words they had seen Jesus use to cast out demons. Didn’t they use the very words of Jesus—Come out of the child you evil spirit!—expecting to get the same results? Wasn’t that prayer?
Jesus diagnosed the problem from the moment He came down from the mountain. He is the one who drew out the one person who had the most faith with a question. He asked why the disciples and religious leaders were arguing? It was the father who had come to Jesus’ disciples for deliverance on behalf of his son who answered the question. Jesus told them why. There had been no faith. Later, when the disciples asked Him privately why the demon had not been cast out when they tried, Jesus told them it was the absence of prayer.
Prayer is not merely repeating words. Prayer is faith. Prayer is believing that God is who He says He is and that God will do what He says He will do.
My puny prayers of faith never go unnoticed by God even when I feel so powerless and overwhelmed by the evil I am praying about. For the whole year of 2017 I prayed about the problem of Human Trafficking in our country and our world and it continues to be on my daily prayer list. What could I do about it? How could I stop it? I also pray for laws to protect the unborn—I’ve been doing that for decades. I prayed specifically about a lot of other things that I am powerless to control. I don’t pray thinking that God does not hear my prayers. I pray, knowing that evil will exist in this world until Jesus comes to complete God’s purging of all evil, but not until all who would believe in the name of Jesus are saved. I never know why, when or how God will answer my prayers, but I pray with confidence.
So that is why I was amazed to read about a Presidential Order that was executed on December 21, 2017. “Executive Order Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption.” Read here.
What will this mean? How will this help? Is this an answer to my prayer? All I know is that I will continue to pray. I don’t want to be part of the group Jesus described in Mark 9:19: “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
My faith is essential to my prayer. I don’t want to be caught not praying in faith in my generation. How about you?