Spiritual Discipline // CONFESSION
By Chris Bowlby
One of my favorite passages in the Gospels is the story of a man who came to the disciples in desperation for his son to be healed. I have five daughters. My oldest was born at 27 weeks. With a LONG scary stay in the NICU I prayed some incredibly desperate prayers for God to heal her, to save her, to spare us from this moment. I can relate to this father; more than anything he wanted his son to be healed. And he wasn’t.
Hang with me here. The story is going to get good; however, at this moment, he had traveled to the disciples and they couldn’t do it. LOTS of other people had been healed and delivered yet here is son was, still suffering, and nothing could be done. Have you ever gotten your hopes up only to be disappointed? Have you ever prayed bold prayers, begged God to intervene and were left with a letdown? This father had done EVERYTHING and was desperate for a miracle.
When Jesus shows up the disciples are all arguing – disappointment almost always leads to blame. After a quick rebuke, they bring the boy to Jesus.
20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.
21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.
He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”
23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”Mark 9:20–24 (NLT)
After a desperate plea from the father, Jesus responds with what he already knew to be true – anything is possible! This man traveled to find Jesus out of desperation. He likely heard of the great works of Jesus and the disciples. Of course Jesus could do this – but like you and I he had many disappointments, including the latest one from the disciples. He prays one of the most profound prayers in the Bible, what author and Pastor, Dr. AJ Swaboda calls the “doubters prayer.”
Lord I believe, help my unbelief.
Jesus didn’t rebuke the father. He didn’t tell him it was his faith that held back the deliverance of his son. The more I follow Jesus, and the more that I am honest with myself I realize just how often I pray “the doubter’s prayer.” I have a measure of faith, but sometimes the past has a way of narrowing the possibility of what could be. The father’s request of Jesus, “help my unbelief” was a confession of doubt. When we confess our doubt God is not waiting to rebuke us; no, He meets us in our doubt.
Is there something in your life you’ve been praying for that hasn’t happened? Was there a past experience of disappointment that narrows your view of what God could do in the future? Take some time today to confess your doubt. God is not offended by this type of prayer; God will not rebuke you for your honesty. He will meet you in the midst of your doubt. Spoiler alert, the man’s son was delivered from a demon possession and set free! I can’t guarantee a future miracle, but I do know the only unanswered prayer is the one that was never prayed. The Holy Spirit is powerful enough to both answer a prayer and comfort us in the disappointment of an unanswered prayer. Let your confession be the soil for fresh seeds of faith.