“His disciples asked him in private, ‘Why could we not drive the spirit out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer.’” (Mk 9,28-29)
This is the concluding part of that gospel episode where Christ was approached by the father of a boy possessed by a mute spirit. (cfr. Mk 9,14-29) According to the father, “wherever the mute spirit seized the boy, it threw him down; he foamed at the mouth, ground his teeth, and became rigid.” It must have been a terrible sight!
But the father complained that when he asked Christ’s disciples to drive it out, they were unable to do so. That’s when Christ retorted, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?”
Somehow Christ was highlighting the need for faith for the disciples to be able to drive the spirit out. “Everything is possible to one who has faith,” he said. And then he asked the father of the boy if he too had faith that the spirit can be driven out.
That’s when the father said the famous words: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” He somehow captured the usual condition we have in relation to our faith. We like to profess that we have faith, but we also know that our faith is oftentimes wavering.
When Christ finally drove out the spirit from the boy, the disciples asked why they could not do it. That’s when Christ made it clear that “this kind can only come out through prayer.”
Somehow from this episode we can make the following conclusion: for us to share in the very power of God, especially when we are faced with extraordinary challenges and problems, we need to have a strong faith. And for that faith to be a working faith, it has to be sustained always through prayer.
In other words, to live our life with God and share in everything that he has as we are meant to be, we need pray to keep our faith going. Prayer should be a constant activity for us. It should be like the very beating of our heart.
We have to realize more deeply that it is a basic need of ours to pray. If we understand our life to be a life always with God, as our Christian faith tells us, then we need to pray always.
Prayer is actually more important and necessary than the air we breathe, the food we eat or the water we drink. We should do everything to learn to pray always. On this, St. Paul clearly said, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5,17)
In fact, in that Pauline passage, what went before and after it are very interesting. St. Paul says that we have to rejoice always and be thankful in all circumstances because that is the will of God for us. (cfr 1 Thes 5,16.18)
We have to find ways of how to conform ourselves to this clear indication of St. Paul. We have to learn how to pray always, converting everything in our life, including those that we consider as negative or bad elements, into an occasion, a means, a reason for praying.
We need to go beyond that common understanding of prayer that pegs it only to the recitation of some vocal prayers or to spending time in some special places to do meditation or contemplation. While these forms of prayer are important and, in fact, are indispensable, they do not have the exclusive ownership, so to speak, of the ways of praying.*