The man ran to Jesus and collapsed at his feet. He was anxious, broken, in need of a miracle. He cried out to Jesus to heal his son. Jesus answered: “Everything is possible to him who believes” (Mark 9v23).
In that moment, the man was confronted with the tension of belief and unbelief, faith and doubt, hope and despair. He intensely wanted to believe, wanted to imagine that everything was ok…but at the same time he couldn’t escape the reality of his story.
His son was sick and he was out of options. It had been years. No doubt he had prayed thousands of times. He cried out to God in the sanctuary. He had wept on the temple floor. But no answer. The heavens were silent.
Where was God…?
And then, suddenly, God was standing before him. Flesh and blood. Grace and Truth. The Word spoke: “Everything is possible to him who believes.”
Jesus words struck him in the deepest way. It exposed the wound. His heart was fragile, vulnerable, pierced by the agony of hope that only the deeply broken can understand.
He caught his breath. His fingers dug into the dirt. Did he still believe? Could he still believe?
And then he said it: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
Of all the prayers in the Bible, this has always struck me as one of the most profound.
Lord, I believe.
This man had faith. Not the kind of faith that simply sounds spiritual or impressive; a wordy stream of religious platitudes or trite mystical phrases. This was the kind of faith that could only come from a place of desperation. He had tried all options, knocked on countless doors, unearthed every stone; but still, he kept coming back to God. It was a faith born of anguish. He genuinely believed that Jesus could do all things. Like a candle illuminating a room, his faith gave him vision when all was dark, a purpose, a reason to keep on hoping.
But his prayer didn’t stop there…
Help my unbelief.
His faith in Jesus was real…but so was his doubt. He couldn’t hide from it, escape its presence, or pretend it wasn’t there. Years of pain and unanswered prayers had forced him to acknowledge not just the light, but the dark. He had to be honest. He had to be real. And so, he brought it all to Jesus.
The faith and doubt.
The hope and despair.
The strength and weakness.
Lord, I believe. Help my belief.
And what I love about this story…is that Jesus heard him. He didn’t send him away, rebuke him for his less than perfect faith. He answered his prayer, stepped into the brokenness, and healed his troubled son.
Sometimes the best prayers are the messiest. Prayers that weep, worry and worship. Prayers that scream, sigh and sing. Prayers that reflect the entangled, complicated mesh of everything we believe and doubt.
And when words fail, and the best we can do is whisper - “Lord I believe, help my unbelief…”
Still, God meets us there.