The internet has made light of the phrase, "thoughts and prayers" and rightfully so. Well meaning people like to toss this phrase out when someone faces illness or tragedy without really following through or offering visible or tangible help. I believe the Bible which means I believe prayer has immense power. If Jesus, God incarnate, sees fit to pray then I should as well. But I do understand why people see this phrase as an empty platitude. The truth is that sometimes prayer is not just the answer to our problems, it's the ONLY answer because no amount of "doing" will bring about lasting change.
I reread the account in Mark 9 of demon possessed boy. Just prior to encountering an arguing crowd and discontent disciples, Jesus had been transfigured in the presence of God's glory, Moses and Elijah. He descended only to find commotion and bickering. The disciples had tried to use the power and authority Jesus bestowed upon them to help a boy who was possessed by a terrible demon. The father explains that this demon not only caused the boy to be deaf and mute but also threw him into fire and water regularly. Imagine this poor father having to spend every day just trying to keep his son alive.
Upon the father's declaration of faith and admission of unbelief and need for Jesus, Jesus cast the demon out and demanded the lifeless boy rise up. Another miracle -but a miracle which caused confusion for the disciples. They had been taught by Christ how to heal and how to cast out demons but why didn't it work for them this time? I couldn't get over Jesus' reply when asked what went wrong for them. Jesus turned to them and said, "This kind can only be cast out by prayer."
This kind. The word kind tells me there are different varieties of demons. Just like there are different types of problems. We wouldn't treat cancer with the same medication or therapy as we would diabetes. We wouldn't help a child with dyslexia the same way we would help a child with an eating disorder. It's very clear that situations are each unique and each situation requires specific action. This particular demon required prayer.
The demon possessing this boy was quite serious, threatening his life daily and Jesus prescribed prayer. This tells me prayer is a powerful weapon against darkness not be taken lightly or seen as a last resort. I'm sure the disciples' attempts included some sort of prayer, but how fervent was their prayer, how focused, how convicted were they? Something tells me that Jesus was showing them their prayers could wield enormous power they just hadn't realized it yet.
Sometimes I imagine myself like one of the early disciples. One moment thinking I have it all figured out and I'm walking with Jesus; the next moment realizing I know nothing at all. I find myself asking Him, "Why didn't my way work?" Perhaps my struggles or the situations I see as frustrating and agonizing require different tools than the ones I'm using. Perhaps instead of setting about to "doing", I need to set about in prayer first. If prayer was strong enough for that ghastly demon, perhaps it's strong enough for the enormous obstacles in my life. And by praying, I am not giving up I am engaging in battle.
Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." It seems to me in order to engage in this struggle, we must be heavenly minded and speak the heavenly language of prayer. A dear friend reminded me recently, "If it bleeds, it's not the enemy." Waging war on the unseen means working with unseen tools and prayer is quite possibly the most powerful.