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This Type Requires Prayer

Mark 9:14-29

The Rev. Jon Roberts

16 September


Christ Episcopal Church

Bradenton, FL

14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 18 and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus[a] asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out[b] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”


The Transfiguration of Christ (“Boy with unclean Spirit” bottom section of portrait), Raphael, 1483-1520, The Vatican, Rome

O Lord my child is sick
We need you to come quick.
O Lord my child is ill
Will you help him to be still.
O Lord my child is in pain
Do not let his life end in vain.
If, soon, there is no relief
Help my unbelief. [1]

“This type requires prayer” is the theme of St. Mark’s account whereby Jesus cures the boy with an unclean spirit.[2] We see the picture set in the context of humanity in its helpless cry for help and God’s reply through His Son Jesus. Is this something that lives in history or is it still seen today?

Once upon a time in high school in North Carolina, a class of students had assembled in their classroom, settling into their seats, and listening to the teacher as she started giving directions. One girl was taking notes. Two boys were quietly talking about a basketball game. The rest were shuffling books and papers making preparations. One of the students was different. She sat motionless. Her mouth dropped. Her eyes were fixed in space. She looked like she was unaware of her surroundings. A discharge began to appear in her seat and ran onto the floor. The students around her picked up the scent, and some instantly jerked when they saw what was going on. One student pointed drawing attention to the girl. Now, the young girl began to shake. She foamed and you could see her gritting her teeth, then biting her tongue. She grasped at the table and threw her hands into her hair. She moaned and yelled and threw herself on the floor. Everyone scattered except one boy. He knelt to touch her. He didn’t say anything as he knew she would not respond. The teacher bent down and summoned someone to go for help. It was a helpless scene, to watch someone in complete agony and yet not knowing how to help. Others lacked maturity and added to their physical withdrawal by insensitive snickering. This was the scene on that occasion.
After the paramedics left, everyone learned that she had an epileptic seizure. She was treated most poorly afterwards. Other students would see her coming and they went the other way. She was given terrible names and lived with that sort of treatment for her remaining two years before graduation. The young girl would later admit at her graduation, to the boy who touched her on that day of the seizure, she could not have survived without his gesture of caring.

We never know how important it is to others by a simple touch. Through her sickness, he came quickly. Through her illness, he waited for her to become still. Through her pain, his presence said her life was not to end in vain. The boy admitted back to her, he not only touched her, but that he prayed for her. The touch showed he cared. The prayer showed he cured. We do not know if the young boy in the gospel had an epileptic seizure or not. Some claim he did, but we do not know for certain. In modern medicine today we have made so many advancements and treatments are so specialized. Just about every physician, if you asked them, would say there is still much to be learned. That is why they say they are practicing medicine rather than perfecting it.

We pray for those skilled in the art of medicine because their hands and their intellect have to be guided and informed. Caring precedes curing. Get the patient comfortable first; check the vitals and keep watch over them. If they lose fluids, replenish them. If they lose blood, infuse them. Once they have control over the patient, then they can deliberate over the next course of action. Look at the billions spent on subduing the foreign things that enter our bodies: pollens, dust, grass, bug bites. We pop the Allegra and the Claritin to subdue and gain control, but there comes a time when we cannot subdue that which builds up inside. The volume is so great and the attack is so severe we believe we will lose our wit. This type requires prayer.

Today we have names for our ailments but in the gospel story the term used is “unclean spirit.” This is something we could still use. Have you ever encountered an unclean spirit that, only through the power of prayer, could be cured? Jesus tells the disciples, those who shared in the helpless nature of the child’s father, that this type of attack to the body requires prayer. What had they been doing all this time for the boy? They were trying to subdue him; to get him to be calm and still. Doing so is a form of caring. It is a special and important touch for sure. As Christians we must be aware, certain things require certain measures. Jesus was sent not to subdue sinners. He was sent to save them. There is no greater feeling than the helplessness of the father. This miracle story gives us an inside look to another story of a father who watches His Son in agony, yet this father is not helpless because he is in prayer. Prayer, which sends the Holy Spirit out, to be received by those who are sick, and to restore them to life. God sent out His Holy Spirit to His Son on the cross, joining the Son in prayer, so that the feeling of forsakenness and abandon is taken away. If you ever encounter an unclean spirit, know that caring is good, but curing is best. Only through prayer, are we delivered from the test.

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