Jesus was summoned by his disciples to meet the needs of a desperate man. The latter had earlier sought the disciples to heal his son who was demon-possessed. But they could not help him (Mark 9:17-29).
Juxtaposing the above parallel passages in Mark and Matthew, we can infer the following:
- We need not fret when we just have a little faith to start with.
- We need to fast and pray to bolster our faith before we can move mountains—see God work miracles through us.
- Prayer and fasting show that we mean business with God, that we’re willing to persevere as we raise our petition to God (Parable of the widow and the wicked judge in Luke 18:1-8).
- We may have little faith but it is still faith. Sometimes we feel our prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling. But, nevertheless, we persist in prayer.
- Faith is like muscle. Faith has to be exercised, just like muscle. We need to trust God for little things and then move on to the next level of faith—trust God for bigger things.
- Faith is not something that’s nebulous and mystical. As we begin to exercise our faith in God for little things, we will come to understand the meaning of faith.
- Does God ask for perfection from us before answering our prayers? No. Just remember this desperate father’s cry: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Did Jesus require perfect faith from him?
God answers us according to His will and our faith:
If Jesus heard the heart’s cry of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) and that of the centurion (Luke 7:1-10)—both of whom were not in the category of the elect—how will He not hear the cries of His elect?
And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? (Luke 18:7).
One night I worked hard to help a mother in the labour ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive; as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator). We also had no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climate).
“All right,” I said, “put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. “Please, God” she prayed, “Send us a hot water bottle today. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.”
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, “And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?”
From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend.
Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!”
Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?”
“Of course!” I replied.
That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it 'that afternoon'.
"Before they call, I will answer" (Isaiah 65:24).
When you receive this, say the prayer. That's all you have to do. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want—but do send it on.
Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost, but a lot of rewards. Let's continue praying for one another.
This awesome prayer takes less than a minute.
Heavenly Father, I ask Thee to bless my friends reading this. I ask Thee to minister to their spirit.