The narrative opens with an argument. The disciples are arguing with the teachers of the law about a demon possessed boy that the disciples had tried to heal, but the demon was too strong.
When the demon saw Jesus, it threw the boy into convulsion where he fell to the ground and rolled around foaming at the mouth.
“How long has he been like this?” Jesus asks the father.
“Since childhood”, is the father’s answer, “but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” In another gospel about the same account, we learn that this demon would often throw the boy into fire or water to try and kill him. Who can blame the father for his lack of hope? This problem has been around for a long time and he has tried everything!
I have tried to calculate when my own childhood addiction began. I would love to be able to share how old this addiction was so that I could display the power of God in my life, but the closest I can come is 25 to 30 years. This habit formed when I was still growing and developing. It was normal to me.
Furthermore, this habit is usually not alone, but has reinforcement from other defense mechanisms so that it looks like a confusing maze of comorbidity. To stop this behavior would be to stop breathing, to stop living. We also know from scripture that there is a spiritual element to it so that when we attempt to go for help, a demon bares its teeth at us in a show of force that really and truly does terrify us.
I remember when I became aware of my own addiction. I could peel it away for a few minutes and let the pain wash over me as I stood alone without this lifelong companion and saw my wasted heart for what it really was. No more excuses or rationalizations; I was an addict and I was helpless.
Later in the gospel of Mark, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast the demon out. I believe that his reply is pertinent when dealing with deeply entrenched behaviors…”This kind can come out only by prayer.”
And so I believe that prayer is the starting point for our journey to healing; it certainly was for me.