Sunday School Lessons


Commentary by Walter Albritton


May 18


Doubt and Unbelief Are Overcome

By Deep Faith and Serious Prayer


Mark 9:14-37

Key Verse: Straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

--Mark 9:24


            Prayer makes a difference. Serious prayer may be necessary in some situations. Casual prayer may render us as weak and ineffective as the nine disciples were when they failed to help the demon-possessed boy.

            Doubt does not release the floodgates of heaven’s power. Faith is necessary. Deep faith and serious prayer are the only solution to some problems.

            Mark does not explain why the disciples were unable to help the boy. Perhaps, having recently experienced the power Jesus gave them over demons, they had become overly impressed with themselves. All of us make that mistake at times.

            It may help us to recall that these nine disciples had been sleeping while Jesus was on the mountain praying. Peter, James, and John were also unable to stay awake and pray as Jesus requested. Perhaps the lesson here is that power is released in response to faithfulness in prayer.

            Dietrich Bonhoeffer wisely pointed out that God does not give us power “in advance,” but as we need it, and then in answer to prayer. When we become over-confident, and self-centered, we neglect to pray, forgetting that our Lord said we could “do nothing apart from him.”

            The disciples learned then that they were helpless without Jesus. However, they would learn later that it was God’s plan for them to have all the power they needed to “be his witnesses,” and to “go and make disciples.”

            This power they would receive through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, that same power is available to us when we humbly recognize our need of the Spirit. We may express that need through earnest prayer and fasting, both of which help us overcome our doubt and unbelief.

            Our neglect of prayer often springs from our foolish pride. We think we have arrived, that we are mature, strong believers. Instead of being God-conscious, we are self-conscious, too occupied with our own thoughts to take the time to listen to God. Then, once again, the scripture is fulfilled: “Pride goes before a fall.”

            Before we can be effective in ministry to others, we must learn that God does not get his work done through human power. His work is done when his power is released into weak people who depend upon Him, not themselves. Paul understood this. That is why he said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

            When I try to see myself in this scripture passage, I can identify with the father of the sick boy. So many times I have cried out to Jesus, with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” In many difficult situations, I have had faith, but I have had honest doubt also. Frustrated, I have begged for deeper faith, faith enough to shake loose from all doubt so that I could trust Jesus with my whole heart.

            In my soul, I have often heard him challenge me with the words, “all things are possible to him that believeth.” To which I have cried, “Please, Lord, give me such faith – and free me from my doubt!”

            As I read about Jesus healing the boy, then taking him by the hand and lifting him up, my heart cries for him to do that for me. I want so much for him to deliver me from the demon of doubt, and take my hand, and lift me up so that I can minister to hurting people effectively.

            Now and then, he has answered my prayer. He has lifted me up, out of doubt, into deep faith. In the strength of His deliverance, I have been able to help others, and to feel His power at work in me, even me. Nothing compares with such Spirit-filled moments!

            Lord, teach us to pray until we can pray seriously, trust you deeply, and see strongholds broken by your mighty power at work in us! + + + +