Highs and lows. That is what it seems life is made of, highs and lows. And, the crazy thing is they seem to come so close together so often. The best of times, joy and peace and plenty are, so often, followed by times of hurt and loss and worry – or the other way around. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be.
The 9th chapter of Mark is an example of this. The first story in that chapter is the Transfiguration. Nowhere else in the Gospels is there such a story of closeness with God. So great, in fact, is this moment that Peter insists he, James, John and Jesus should stay there. But then, they come down the mountain and they immediately encounter turmoil.
A boy has a spirit that throws him to the ground and keeps him from speaking. The boy’s father pleads with the remaining disciples to heal him, but they cannot. Now, of course, Jesus can and does heal him. But at the end of it, Jesus says something that is really important for all of us to hear. When the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn’t drive out this spirit? Jesus says, “This kind can only be driven out through prayer.”
My first reaction to that part of the story is, “Well of course Jesus knew what to do.” But my second reaction is this “Why didn’t the disciples think of prayer?” And then, crashing like thunder on a summer night, God said to me “How often do you forget?” And, I knew. It is so easy to forget about prayer, that is, prayer beyond praying for…
Prayer is not just praying for things, moments or people. Prayer is the most sacred of all forms of communion with God. Henri Nouwen once said, “Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart.” Think about that. What it’s like to be so deep in prayer that your mind, thinking-reasoning-processing, serves no other purpose than to connect your heart with God’s heart.
So, whatever you face, have you remembered that some things “can only be driven out through prayer.” When was the last time you spent that kind of time in prayer? The kind of time when your mind points everything about a holy presence directly to your heart? Maybe it is time.
In Mark 9, the father who so faithfully and courageously brought his son to be healed says to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief. ” Perhaps it is no coincidence that Jesus, shortly thereafter, replies “Only prayer”. Again, perhaps, we need to hear the same message.