Father Girardey discusses a ninth narrative, The Healing of an Epileptic Boy (Mk 9:14-29; Lk 9:37-43), which took place after Jesus had come down from the mountain where He was transfigured: “And one of the multitude, answering, said: Master, I have brought my son, my only son to Thee. He hath a dumb spirit, who, wheresoever he taketh him, dasheth him, and throweth him down, and teareth him, so that he foameth, and gnasheth the teeth and pineth away; and he bruiseth him and hardly departeth from him. And I spoke to Thy disciples to cast him out, and they could not. . . . And when he had seen Jesus, immediately the spirit troubled him; and, being thrown down upon the ground, he rolled about foaming. And Jesus asked his father: How long is it since this (first) happened to him? But he said: From his infancy; and oftentimes hath he cast him into the fire and into waters to destroy him. But if Thou canst do anything, help us, having compassion on us. And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And immediately the father of the boy, crying out with tears, said: I do believe; Lord, help my unbelief. And when Jesus saw the multitude running together, He threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him; and enter not anymore into him. (The unclean spirit) crying out and greatly tearing him, went out of him, and he (the boy) became as dead, so that many said: He is dead. But Jesus, taking him by the hand, lifted him up, and he arose and Jesus restored him to his father. . . . His disciples secretly asked Him: Why could not we cast him out? And He said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
Concerning the father’s plea, “if Thou canst do anything, help us,” Father Girardey notes: “This was not said in a spirit of doubt or denial, but rather of a weak faith, hence our divine Saviour sought to confirm and strengthen his faith by reminding him of the necessity of a lively and confiding faith, saying: ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’ As soon as he heard this, the boy’s father weeping replied with humility and energy: ‘I do believe, help my unbelief.’ This earnest prayer obtained for him the necessary strong and confiding faith, and Jesus cast the evil spirit out of the boy. This shows us what kind of faith will cause our prayers to be heard.”
As for the reason why the disciples could not heal the boy, “Jesus by His answer taught them that for certain great and important favors a simple prayer alone does not suffice, but that persistent prayer must be joined to acts of self-denial. . . . This is a practical lesson for those Christians who pray very little and never deny themselves any enjoyment, but indulge their appetite and sensuality.”
Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).