Our Pages

When you can’t pray

When you can’t pray
Posted on October 23, 2020  - By Premilla Jacob

Many times when I read or hear the testimonies of missionaries who gave up everything they had and risked their lives for the gospel, I think to myself, “I wish I had faith like that.” Which is why I relate to the man in Mark 9:14-29. 

Here was a father whose son had been tormented by an evil spirit since childhood. The father had saved his son’s life on numerous occasions, as the spirit kept trying to kill the boy by throwing him into the fire or water. When the dejected father explained his predicament to the Lord, he said, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can?’ All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately, the father cried out and said, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” The Lord had mercy, rebuked the spirit, and the boy was healed. The disciples later asked the Lord why they were unable to drive it out. The Lord said that particular type of evil spirit could come out only by prayer (Mark 9:29). 

Desperate prayers

Now, you may think to yourself that nobody really prayed here, and yet the Lord healed the boy. But if you really look closely, there is indeed a simple, beautiful prayer that was prayed here. It is so short that you almost overlook it: “I believe, help my unbelief!” (v. 24).

The prayer in Mark 9 is so short that you almost overlook it

The desperate plea of a father, who was in tears, pleading for his son to be healed, but fearing his faith wasn’t enough. It wasn’t a lengthy prayer and it didn’t have any fancy words, but it was straight from the heart. He was trying to say, “My faith is far from perfect, I am painfully aware of my shortcomings. So, please help me have enough faith, for I cannot have it on my own.” And it pleased the Lord to answer his prayer. 

I praise my God that along with mighty prayers of faith — like that of the centurion who said “Just say the word, Lord, and my servant will be healed” — precious little prayers like that of this father are also recorded in the Bible. It reminds us that God listens eagerly to even the weakest and most feeble of prayers that are somehow hanging onto that last iota of faith. Whether it was Abraham, the father of faith, or doubting Thomas, God heard their petitions without partiality.

The Spirit’s help

Everyday is a battleground in some form or the other. We constantly face situations that instil fear, doubts, uncertainties, and even cause us to question our faith. We pray hollow, lukewarm prayers that sound so unconvincing. But praise God that there is Someone who helps us to pray just the way God wants! 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27. 

Do not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. It is this same Spirit that transformed the eleven cowardly disciples to later fearlessly declare the gospel to the ends of the earth. He lives inside us to constantly reassure us of the goodness of God and to strengthen our faith, for faith itself is the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not allow us to falter in our faith when He Himself intercedes for us as we pray. 

The same Spirit who transformed the eleven cowardly disciples to fearlessly declare the gospel lives inside us today

Our sympathetic Saviour

But that’s not all. Along with the Holy Spirit, the Lord Himself is interceding for you and me! Romans 8:33-34 says “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is He that condemns? Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right Hand of God and is also interceding for us.” And because He has walked on the face of this earth being fully man and fully God, He knows and understands our temptations and trials.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

When I have been too occupied with the busyness of life, He still prays for me. In desperate times, when I have dared to question Him, He still prays for me. When I have nearly given up and I have no words but only tears to cry out in prayer, He continues to pray for me. He whispers in my ear just as He said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan had asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). He is not only the author but also the finisher of my faith. He is faithful to keep and guard my faith until the very end.

How reassuring it is to know that our Lord not only listens to our feeble and inadequate prayers, but also prays for us and adds His power to our prayers! In Mathew 17:20, it says “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” But even when having faith the size of a mustard seed is challenging, His grace will make our faith whole and the impossible possible. 

May this truth help us to come with more boldness and faith into the presence of God to ask for our needs with confidence. “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Not Satan, not the world, not even our own hearts! We are more than conquerors through Christ for every battle, both within us and outside of us. And every time we are tempted to doubt, may we go to the Lord, just as we are, and pray that heartfelt prayer: “Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!”

Premilla Jacob

About Premilla Jacob

Based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Premilla Jacob is a happy homemaker who seeks to find God’s glory in her daily life. When her three boys aren’t keeping her busy with diapers and homework, she takes the opportunity to encourage others in her community and share Christ through her writings.



Get a notification in your Inbox

A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.