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Speaking to the Soul: Only Through Prayer

Speaking to the Soul: Only Through Prayer

Week of Proper 13, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]


Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 88 (morning) // 91, 92 (evening)
2 Samuel 12:1-14
Acts 19:21-41
Mark 9:14-29

I used to participate in a support group facilitated by a therapist. I shared with the group my concern about some unhealthy patterns that affect my extended family, and I asked the therapist what I could do to protect my more immediate family from these diseased patterns. My jaw dropped when the therapist told me exactly what I could do: “Nothing.”

Our gospel for this morning introduces us to a parent and some disciples who are also at the limit of their powers. It seems that they can do nothing to free a man’s son who has been possessed since childhood by a spirit that convulses him, throws him to the ground, and tries to destroy him by both water and fire. This spirit resembles the untreatable diseases and destructive addictions that have so firm a grasp on people we love and wish we could heal. But there is nothing we can do.

Well, not exactly nothing. After shaking me loose from the idea that it was in my power to protect my family, the therapist in my support group gave me some options. I could make my own health and well-being a priority, so that I could respond in a healthy way to whatever life threw at me. And, I could choose not to protect people around me from the consequences of their own actions.

Jesus also gives his disciples some advice once they’ve been shaken out of the illusion of their own power. When they ask Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the spirit, Jesus replies, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” By prayer, Jesus might mean some supernatural, intercessory capabilities to free people from disease and demon-possession. But by prayer, Jesus might also mean demonstrating the humility to admit the limits of our powers and to ask for help. Sometimes, we’ll make it only through prayer. There’s nothing else we can do.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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