Jesus said to him, “If you are able! — All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
“I believe; help my unbelief!” That is one of my favorite and most often prayed prayers. “Lord, I do believe, but help my unbelief!”
You can feel this poor father’s helplessness, his hopelessness. He can’t find anyone to help him. His little child has an evil spirit that convulses him, flings him to the ground foaming, grinding his teeth, body rigid. Sometimes the demonic spirit hurls him into the fire or water trying to destroy him.
Desperation drives the father to Jesus’ disciples for help. But they can’t help. He then turns to Jesus pleading: “Help us if you are able!” Jesus assures the father, “All things can be done for the one who believes.” His faith already shaken, the father prays: “I believe; help my unbelief!” And his son is healed!
Out of all the prayers I have ever heard, there are few that strike me as so honest and so articulate as this father’s daring prayer: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Just enough faith to know that he needs to pray, but not enough faith to even believe in an answer. That’s often where I find myself, and perhaps where you are today.
Ole Hallebsy, whom I mentioned on an earlier day, was a Norwegian theologian and pastor, an outspoken opponent of the Nazi occupation of Norway. For his stance against the Nazis he spent two years in a concentration camp. Even after the war Hallesby faced hostility for his commitment to the Biblical orthodox faith. He knew the feelings of helplessness in prayer. In his book, Prayer, Hallesby writes about helplessness as the very foundation of prayer:
My friend, your helplessness is the very essence of prayer. To pray is to open the door unto Jesus and admit Him into your distress. Your helplessness is the very thing which opens wide the door unto Him and gives Him access to all your needs.
Hallesby says he had learned that prayer consists of essentially two things: the recognition of our helplessness and just enough faith to take that helplessness to Jesus. “Leave to Him the when and the how of His answer to your prayer.” (Hallesy, Prayer)
- Where in your life are you feeling helpless? You might want to record this in your prayer journal.
- Now take this feeling of helplessness to Jesus and talk with Him about it. You might even want to say to Jesus: “I believe; help my unbelief!”
- Complete your prayer time by being still and silent in God’s presence, listening for Him.
“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest