God’s Son became man to lead all of humanity unto God and opened the gate of salvation and heaven for all to enter. But the only thing that prevents many from entering is their unbelief for sin has penetrated their heart, causing darkness and hardness to smother the light of faith. Every sin, irrespective of its man created category, opens the door to the forces of darkness that lead us deeper and deeper into unbelief. The only way to stop it from growing into a tantalizing morsel is to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness from God. Lord Jesus prayed to the Father, seeking sanctification of all believers by the Word of God for that is His Truth and this process leads us back into His Light and helps us grow in faith.
Faith versus unbelief – In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve heard two voices playing upon their minds – one the voice of desire and the other of God and the struggle for mankind has since been on about which voice to listen to. Our inner voice represents pour soul, that is our desires and feelings or voice of the flesh whereas God speaks to us through the Scripture, the Holy Spirit or through some select chosen few. Both these forces act in opposition to each other thus restricting our actions forcing us to swing from one end to the other from faith to unbelief (Galatians 5:17). The Greek word “apistia” is translated as unbelief and implies absence of faith – ‘pistis’ being faith – and apistia being derived from this latter word. This continuous shift from one to the other makes discernment difficult forcing us to look at the symptoms at one moment while depending on God’s promises the next – faith to unbelief and back. Since the fall of mankind was caused by their desire to seek knowledge from sources other than God, we tend to gain knowledge over knowing the giver/source of this knowledge – God the Father. God describes such people as children with no faith and decides to hide His face from them (Deuteronomy 32:20).
Unbelief being absence of faith would either be worldly knowledge based or for lack of knowledge of God. Unbelief is also weak faith that attempts to find and lean on crutches ignoring and dishonoring God. Even demons believe in the power and authority of God but their belief leads them to rebellion against God for they do not honor Him as such. Faith reveals the love and character of God leading a believer to good works (James 2:19-20). Demonic spirits always recognized Lord Jesus and obeyed His commands to leave their victims and even today when we act in His name and authority, obedience follows. The mute spirit afflicting the boy reacted violently in the presence of Lord Jesus and threw the boy to the ground and since faith is gift of God through His Holy Spirit, the demons have no faith (1 Corinthians 12:9). God gives faith but our nature remains sinful and we undergo a continuous process of transformation through the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit into the image and likeness of Lord Jesus, an image in which we were initially created.
Because of this in every believer in addition to the gift of faith from God, his earlier state of unbelief also continues to hold sway. Even the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 also suffered from unbelief and we see Abraham asking his wife Sarah to introduce his as her brother lest someone kills him for her. Moses after his forty years sojourn in the wilderness tending to Jethro’s sheep realized his personal weaknesses and showed unwillingness to god to Egypt to lead the Israelites out when tasked by God at the “Burning Bush”. Prophet Elijah experienced the truth of God’s promises at Cherith brook, on mount Carmel while presenting his sacrificial offering and eventual slaying of 850 priests of Baal and Asherah. Yet on receiving the threat to his life from Queen Jezebel, fled to save himself. And this was despite the explicit promise of God to each of them. Unbelief hovers over our faith like a thick cloud adversely affecting our judgement and shifting our focus on the symptoms. This internal war is one indication of a believer, for where there is no faith, there cannot be any conflict.
Important points of the ‘father’s’ request – The one line prayer of the mute boy’s father has three independent parts – first, is his statement of faith “I believe”; second, request – help; and finally a confession of his unbelief. We shall the inherent components of each part of his prayer.
His statement of faith – “Lord, I believe” is the first part of the boy’s father’s prayer and is the most essential and important part for without having any claim through an established relationship none can seek any help. God asked the Israelites to “present your case, give your arguments” in the same manner as a petitioner does in his petition before the court (Isaiah 41:21). Prayer is pleading for blessings before a just and righteous God and the general arguments that we present with our prayers are – I am in need of Your help; it is for Your glory; for Your Son’s sake or in fulfillment of Your promises. This man’s argument is simple – ‘Lord, I believe’ – I am Your believer and I am in need of your help for the healing of my son as well as for getting rid of my own unbelief.
First part of his prayer has four basic points – first, it is the ‘necessary’ plea for God would not be obliged to answer someone who does not believe in Him. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The boy’s father was trying to fulfill the three points of this one part of the Scripture – he displayed his faith in God, he sought His help by bringing his son to Him and he acknowledged that God would reward him through healing his son and his own unbelief also. He implied that Lord see this little spark of faith in me, take pity and help. Lord Jesus’ prayed His final prayer to God the Father and in each request in the only recorded full prayer of the Lord, He presented a valid reason for each request by interposing words like “that, for etc” – “Father the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1).
Second, this prayer, like every other word in the Scripture, is instructive for us to teach us to pray properly. We are likely to see the contradictory nature of the two statements in this one line – I believe, help my unbelief – and leave it for that. We cannot look at our blessings given through His Divine grace without looking at our infirmities also at the same time. We need to confess both our sins as well as the fruits of the Holy Spirit sought by us. While seeking humility I must recognize my pride and while praying for patience mention my inherent self will also. Third, this sequence is acceptable to the Lord as evidenced by His positive answer through healing for in this we establish our identity first – Lord I am Yours, help me and come to my aid. Lord Jesus taught us in the same manner to first claim our relationship in prayer “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). King David placed his request before God in like manner “O my God, I trust in You, let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me” (Psalm 25:2). Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for all believers for they are God’s chosen people and given over by Him to His Son for bringing into His fold and salvation (John 17:9). Fourthly, this is established by Scripture as the right way for the Lord said “All things are possible for those who believe” (Mark 9:23). Abraham received his promise from God at 75 years of age and its fulfillment at ninety nine years of age, 24 years after, yet he did not stagger in unbelief and through this gave glory to God (Romans 4:20).
All those who know Lord Jesus as Son of God but are yet to surrender to Him and accept Him as their Savior, must stop wavering and step forward in faith. There is nothing difficult for Him for He has all authority and power over everything and is willing to forgive all our sins and provide the promised ‘life of abundance’.
Exclusivity of the father’s prayer – The mute boy’s father had probably heard of Lord Jesus coming to that area and had brought his son with great expectation and his petition before the Lord is a good example for us for learning from its special points. First, is the occasion of the request, for this is the heartfelt plea of a father who had been witnessing his son being repeatedly taken to the very end by the demonic spirit. His anxiety and desperation for the safety and healing of the boy is clearly evident. On being asked he explains his problem to the Savior and then goes on to inform about the failure of the disciples in healing the boy. Genuine prayers from deep within the heart are uttered in times of extreme adversity and all of us have experienced this. The Israelites, while wandering in the desert wilderness suffered from thirst and hunhger, finding no help from any source and then they cried out to the LORD in their distress and He delivered them out of their distress (Psalm 107:4-6).
The boy’s father suffered unbearable pain of his child’s suffering, his helplessness at not being able to do anything, the failure of the disciples and a feeling that his own unbelief may be the reason. We desire the best for our children but there is a need to ascertain if our own unbelief may not be the cause for delay in their receiving the required blessings. It is necessary to continuously evaluate our faith and results of our prayers to identify weaknesses and irregularities in life and in humble submission place all that before the Lord and seek His help. We need to recognize our spiritual state, like the boy’s father did and cried out to the Lord for healing of the son as well as for help for his own unbelief. Prayer is offered in the physical state to tap into the spiritual realm, in faith, to convert the spiritual blessings into physical reality. Often we do not realize about our spiritual state of maturity and are content in whatever state we are in without seeking any help and eventually end up blaming God for unanswered prayers. Immediately on becoming aware of his weakness the boy’s father cried out to the Lord – ‘help my unbelief’ and received the desired answer.
Third, “cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22) and the boy’s father realized that the only source that can and would willingly help him is Lord Jesus. The cry of the Son of God to ll of humanity to come to Him, take His yoke upon themselves and receive His Divine peace by casting all burdens on Him, is well known to all (Mathew 11:28-30). Yoke is a wooden contraption used to harness two equal sized bullocks to carry load or till the land where the yoke distributes the load equally on both. In case the sizes of the yoked animals are different, like a camel and a bull, the bigger size animal would end up carrying all the load.
- When we accept the yoke of the Messiah Lord, His stature being unimaginably larger/higher than man, all the load would end up on Him, thus relieving us of the burden. We unnecessarily bear many burdens of our children’s future, marriage, sickness and much more while Lord Jesus is willing to help us. This man understood the reality that self efforts are useless and none but the Lord can and will help, thus leading to his cry. We need to place all our cares before His Divine throne and surrender all these enemies of our peace to Him rather than ourselves surrendering to the same.
Fourth, this one-line prayer is brief yet full in every respect, for the man understood the biggest obstacle – ‘unbelief’- and sought help to overcome it. It is the sin of unbelief that traps us and forces us out of the race, even before we have started the participation, for Satan’s attack is directed at this little area of our heart to create doubts in our mind. But the remedy is also very simple, “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” to help us (Hebrews 12:1-2). Lord Jesus gifts us the faith and only He can help and strengthen the same.
The father’s confession of unbelief – The two words come out of the depths of his heart – ‘my unbelief’ – in the form of an honest, sincere and genuine plea with no pretensions r long worded statements. He simply lays bare his soul before the All-knowing Lord – I am a vile sinner, full of doubts and unworthy to stand before You but am desperately in need of your help. The Psalmist is clear in his plea to God “Whom I have in heaven but You?” (Psalm 73:25) where there is no self righteousness but absolute dependence on God. Compared to this is the prayer of the Pharisee is full of self exaltation for his personal deeds of twice a week fasting, righteousness and giving of tithes while comparing himself with the sinners; as if God needed him more than his need for God. Whereas the tax collector did not consider himself worthy even to look at heaven and cried out to God for mercy while recognizing his sinful nature (Luke 18:11-13).
The commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and God searches our hearts desiring truth therein. King David was made to realize the gravity of his sin with Bathsheba by Prophet Nathan to make him cry out to God “Against You have I sinned, O God. You desire truth in our hearts”. The desperate plea comes to cleanse him with hyssop, to wash him and make him whiter than snow thus removing all sins through Divine mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 51:6-7). The boy’s father represents all of us before the Lord, for all of us are in need of help for our unbelief. Our inherent sinful nature gets transformed through the slow process of change under the guidance and urging of the Holy Spirit while the gift of faith comes immediately on our surrender to the Lord. In this state we look at our nature as through a mirror and immediately forget it without doing anything while God desires us to be doers and not only listeners of the Word of God (James 1:23-24).
Just as one can see his reflected in the water, in like manner the heart reflects the kind of person one is (Proverbs 29:17). Are we looking at the reflection for self evaluation and seeking Divine help or for self exaltation? Do we desire to be like the Pharisee declaring his righteousness or like the tax collector seeking God’s help? The mute boy’s father saw, identified his weakness and cried out to the Lord for help, who is ever willing to come to our rescue. We need to ask Him to search our hearts to help us identify our weaknesses and then seek His help to overcome the same. Are we willing to remove this stone of unbelief from our ways through His help?