Prayer, Plain and Simple

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Mustard seed faith will do. Just a bit is enough to begin. As a cup of water poured down the old well can prime the pump and set the water flowing, all I need today is a sample-packet of faith to pray for faith to pray. All I need muster is the courage to ask, “Lord, help me ask!”

A father with an ailing child once came to Jesus pleading for a miracle. Jesus’ apprentices on their own had failed to deliver. But the poor fellow wasn’t deterred. He asked to speak to management. Jesus answered him with one of his surprising, puzzling riddles, “Anything is possible if a person believes…”

It strikes me. Who is Jesus challenging here, with “Anything is possible if a person believes…” My bet is that he’s aiming more at his bumbling followers than at this frantic father. Earlier when Jesus learned of his lads’ incompetence he had scolded them, seemingly in frustration, “You faithless people!” (Mark 9:19) Clearly, he’d expected more.

It’s the poor, frightened, discouraged father, hanging by a thread that can barely be called faith who responds honestly. Knowing and admitting that he’s “poor in spirit,” is his first step to breakthrough.

All he needed – and this encourages me today – was enough scavenged faith to not retreat, to stay and ask one more time, even after a bitter disappointment. He believes that much, though he knows he’s fragile. The man spends his remaining hopes wisely, in a single, brilliant prayer: “I have just enough belief to ask you to give me enough belief…” He’s the man in the fable granted one wish who shrewdly wishes for a thousand wishes. In praying for faith he gets both miracles.


“Lord, there are only five words here: ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’ But those five words, honestly spoken, given to you in humility are enough. They have to be enough because they are all I have. Like the lad who brought you five fish to feed a multitude, this is my simple contribution, my prayer, today.”

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