When the disciples were unable to cast out a demon (even though they had done so on previous occasions), Jesus was able to step in and heal the afflicted boy. Later on, Jesus addressed the source of their ineffectiveness.
Mark 9:28-29 After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
There was always something that bothered me about the whole scene, because prior to casting out the demon…Jesus didn’t pray.
An account of this situation is given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke; however, each retelling of the events say nothing about Jesus praying prior to rebuking the demon and ordering it to come out of the boy. In the several stories recounted in the gospels, Jesus would give thanks to God or look to Heaven before performing a miracle…but in this instance, when He says that casting out the demon requires prayer – there is no record of a prayer being offered.
This situation has left me puzzled for a while. After making as many observations as I could, interpreting the text as well as I could, and then even thinking about the apparent contradiction for some length of time…I was still stuck. It’s at times like these (only after exhausting our own personal abilities), that it is acceptable to consult a commentary.
Several commentators didn’t address my question – you’ll find that some writers don’t want to talk about the difficult or potentially controversial passages. However, the few commentators that I did find willing to discuss the passage made an interesting point, that perhaps I’m thinking to narrowly when it comes to Christ’s prescription of prayer in order for the disciples to cast out the demon.
Since Jesus didn’t pray before commanding the demon to leave the boy, prayer is evidently not a one-time evocation of God’s power and authority. Jesus’ own prayer life modeled one of complete dependency on the Father. This incident would have been a powerful lesson for the disciples, teaching them that they would need to constantly rely on God in order to achieve any mission He would give them. This type of reliance would be both evidenced by and maintained by their prayer time with the Father.
The same rings true for us as well. When we maintain our reliance on the Father is when we are able to achieve the mission He’s given us. When we are challenged, there will be no need to invoke God’s authority by making a loud, thunderous prayer, rather we will already be prepared to act because we know the One we’re relying on.