Context. Jesus had just returned with Peter, James, and John from being transfigured on the mountain. God himself had just spoke audibly to those 3 witnesses. All 3 were pretty freaked out at seeing Moses, Elijah, conversing with Jesus, and then hearing God's voice.
#Sidenote: scribes were questioning and arguing with the (nine disciples) left behind, who obviously weren't quite cool enough to be invited to witness Jesus be transfigured on the mount. But note that religious people always want to argue. Strife, division, contention, fussing over why the spirit of God can't move... dumb stuff like, should you heal a blind man on the sabbath. (More realistic to this context was they were probably arguing why this demon couldn't be cast out, or whose sin caused the boy to be this way.)
Jesus asks "what's up, what are you arguing about?" They say there's a boy with a spirit which makes him mute, seizes him, throws him down, foams, at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff. The disciples were told by "one in the crowd" to drive it out and they couldn't. #sidenote: pay particular attention to God's instructions, unless you want to be thoroughly embarrassed. Don't do anything unless God says so.
Jesus then, rolls his eyes at how stupid this argument is, and peeved with his own disciples, said "you're faithless. How long do I have to put up with you? Bring him (the demon possessed boy) here."
Immediately the boy sees Jesus, and the demon begins to manifest. (Like the dude who lived in the caves and ran to Jesus, and Jesus cast the devil into the swine that went over the cliff.). Jesus has got so much power and presence of God, Holy Spirit, that devils are shaking in their boots before he even says anything. Just the presence of holiness irritates devils. Jesus asked the father, "how long has this been happening?" The dad says since childhood, and also mentions it drives the boy to be suicidal. The man asks "But IF... YOU CAN do anything, take pity on us and help us!" Jesus responds by saying "IF... you can?... " (speaking of the boys fathers statement to him) then Jesus says "All things are possible for the one who believes and trusts [in me]!"
At this point the father has witnessed his sons pain for years. It's says since he was a child, and now he is a boy, so this has been a long tough parenting journey for this man. In his Jewish faith he could have questioned God many times why did you [God] allow this to happen to my son? My son didn't deserve this. He may even have been angry at God at times. As a human being, and especially as a parent, one of the worst experiences we can have is having to witness our loved ones or our child suffer or be in pain. It can create a hurt within us, and can be emotionally taxing to witness it. This man had to deal with this every day for years. Time and time again, day after day after day, weeks, months and year after year, his son experienced a terrible life and he saw it all. After witnessing it so much for so long, his heart lost hope. He began to set his expectation lower, in an attempt to save himself from further disappointment. He asked Jesus, "if... if..... if.... you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
How often do we set our expectations lower because of circumstances that we face time and time and time again? Something doesn't turn out the way we had expected a few times, and we just change our expectations. Our minds are brilliant at jumping to conclusions. Try something, result not as expected, try same thing results not as expected, try same thing again, results still not as expected... Human mind naturally begins to deduce that when we try that thing, the output will not match our expectations, and therefore our mind begins to predict the output of future trys. This can rob our hope. When our Hope is lost, we have lost touch with God. God is love (1John4:8), and love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. " 1 Cor 13:7
In that moment as Jesus said "all things are possible to them that believe and trust in me." the man could have had a flash back to all the hectic episodes he had to witness time and time again, but now he also had a tiny glimmer of hope restored. He cried out desperately with a piercing cry, "I do believe... help [me overcome] my unbelief!" The man realized Jesus had the power, but the years of negative experiences had worn down his optimism. He lost hope. He lost touch. But in this moment he gets real, he gets pure, and he gets honest with himself and speaks from his heart.
We deal with many circumstances that can, if we aren't careful, rob us of our hope and faith in God. Times when God seems to be distant. Times we don't understand why we have to face certain things. Why did such and such happen to my child, my brother, my sister, my wife, myself? If we aren't careful, these circumstances can bring us to question love, question God, question Gods love for us, question our faith in a strategic attempt to try and to break a crack in our shield (the shield of faith). If our shield is broken, our protection is compromised, our security is at stake, and then doubt and fear can pour in, leveraging the the weak spot of the shield.
1 Samuel 16:7 "But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For God does not see what man sees, for a man ⌊looks on the outward appearance⌋, but Yahweh ⌊looks on the heart"
There's nothing wrong with getting real. God is looking for the heart response, not the outward response. God responds to people getting real with themselves, and he knows the difference between lip service and authenticity. God responds to authenticity. God responds to genuine hope and expectation, even if it's just a glimmer.
Here we see the father of the demon possessed boy respond from his heart, his dismayed, discouraged, wavering, and some what skeptical heart. He says essentially, "I believe in you but I have some doubts still, help me!" It's a real genuine response.
After the dad cries out Jesus sees the crowd gathering around... this same crowd that had witnessed the disciples be unable to drive the demon out, the same crowd with the scribes who were arguing with them, the same people looking on for whether Jesus had power or not. Jesus then rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it (the unclean spirit, he was addressing the demon [the cause], not the person victimized by it). "You deaf and mute spirit, (btw, deaf was a word of knowledge because no where earlier did it mention the boy was deaf) I command you, come out of him and never enter him again!"
After screaming out and throwing the boy into a terrible convulsion, it came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse [still and pale] that many [of the spectators] said "he is dead!" How epic is that. This man cries out for Jesus to help him and help his unbelief, and then Jesus casts the devil out and then people around him are saying his boy is dead. Jesus killed the boy! Even though faith had just worked a miracle, they based their conclusion on outward appearance, pale, still and motionless... got to be dead, didn't work, this is going into an epic fail you tube compilation, Jesus is a loser with no power clearly! God isn't real. God abandoned you. You should just curse God, just like what the people surrounding Job in the Old Testament were saying! "Told ya so!" But Jesus then took the boy by the hand and raised him; and he (the now delivered boy) stood up.
There's lot of us that have that same response as the father of the demon possessed boy in certain areas of our life and spiritual life. We've been through a lot. There's a lot of life experiences and things that reinforce in our mind the opposite of faith and hope in God. But these experiences do not change God's word or his will for our lives. ( Jer29:11 For I know the plans that I am planning concerning you,’ ⌊declares⌋ Yahweh, ‘plans for prosperity and not for harm, to give to you a future and a hope.") The important part to recognize here is that while we say "I believe, but I have my doubts"... or even just "I have my doubts..." we don't want to stop there. We need to get real and put our heart out there to God and ask him to help us. He will fill the gap and move mountains, change things, even perform miracles, but he requires authenticity and a genuine heart. If we ask him, or cry out even like this boys father, in an honest and sincere heart "help me God, I need you. I'm unsure, but help me." surround ourselves with people devoted to prayer and faith. God will invade that space and his manifest presence will be revealed in a mighty way, and we can learn to know with absolute certainty God's love for us and plans to prosper us.
“When He had gone indoors, His disciples began asking Him privately, “Why were we unable to drive it out?” He replied to them, “This kind [of unclean spirit] cannot come out by anything but prayer [to the Father].””
Some translations also say prayer and fasting.
The word here προσευχή , proseuche, = prayer, also reference lexham bible dictionary, for further overview of "prayer." But it is clear here that this implies the disciples weren't being very active with their prayers. Their prayer life was lacking. This is also the same word for prayer used when Jesus went off to pray and sweat drops of blood in Luke 22:44. Jesus often separated himself to pray and get shut in with God. Also same word used in Matt 21:22 "21 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will do not only what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” it will happen! 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive.”
There is a correlation between having faith, which the disciples were cited not having, earlier in Mark 9:14-29 and the ability (or power) to cast out demons (move mountains), and prayer, as Jesus cites that as the reason they could not do it.
Matt 17:19-20 Same story Jesus is quoted as saying "Because of your little faith. For truly I say to you, if you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
The father of the previously possessed boy had just a tiny diluted fraction of faith, and look what resulted in his being sincere in that little bit he had. How much more faith should we, who have received the Holy Spirit, that same spirit that raised Christ from the dead have? If we have a mustard seed of faith, then we have enough faith to move mountains.
To have power over extreme atmospheres, in our own life and the lives of others, we must increase in prayer, that results in an increase in faith, that results in an increase of power.
Prayer -> Faith -> Power.