Jesus wants to know how long He’s going to need to bear with this “faithless generation” surrounding Him. His disciples are incapable of casting a spirit from a child — this spirit “seizes [the boy], throws him down” making him “foam and grind his teeth and become rigid.” (Mark 9:18) The parent assumes Jesus’ disciples are capable of performing the same healing miracles as Jesus, but they are not able to drive this spirit from this child.
When the spirit sees Jesus, “immediately it convulses the boy.” (Mark 9:20) The spirit is fully aware of Jesus’ true identity. Jesus asks the boy’s father a bit of medical history — how long has this been going on? Perhaps He even asks what happens during these seizures for the father tells Jesus of the boy being tossed into fire or water by the spirit.
Then, suddenly doubting Jesus’ power — after all, Jesus’ disciples were inept — the father says, “But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22)
And Jesus says, “If you can!” then declares that “all things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)
And the father cries, likely in utter despair, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
The smartest response ever is to verbalize belief and then admit to doubt. Believe as you can, but recognize that faith comes from God’s hand; it is not self-generated or even self-sustained.
Dear Father God, thank You for Your willingness to heal us. Thank You for helping us to believe when we are filled with doubts — doubts about ourselves and doubts about You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.