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A Reflection: The Call To Be A Prayerful Father

“Everything is possible for one who believes.”

I often ask my dad when he will send me the manual for raising children. I can usually count on a witty response such as, "I am putting it in the mail today!" We had this joking banter a few days ago. I told my dad that my son would turn ten years old this year, and I asked him to speed up the process and get me that manual. I am still waiting of course.

I am constantly reflecting on fatherhood and raising children. So I tuned in to Monday morning Mass when I heard the Gospel. The Gospel included a story about Jesus and a father whose child was possessed. Read here.

The dialogue between Jesus and the boy's father is quite dramatic. The father questions Jesus, "If you can do anything, take pity on me." Jesus rebukes him. "If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.” Jesus drives out the demon and then walks away inside. His disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only through prayer."

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I read the Gospel at home again. It puzzled me who Jesus was admonishing for not praying. I think Jesus was referring to the father. The clue seems to be in the words of the father. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I reflected on the story, Jesus' words, and what they meant to me. As I reflected, I dwelled on how the father's doubt kept him from fully trusting in Jesus and it saddened me.

I kept thinking about another story in Mark's Gospel that I love. It is about a father named Jairus. You can read about Jairus here. His daughter is on the brink of death, and he leaves his home and his family to find Jesus. He falls to his knees and begs at Jesus' feet, pleading earnestly with him. “My beloved daughter is dying." Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Jesus walks with him, and news arrives that his daughter has died.

“Do not be afraid; just believe.”

Jesus hears this news and speaks. “Do not be afraid; just believe.” Upon arriving at the home, Jesus put everyone out and entered with the parents and disciples. He took the girl by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around.

Imagining this story was a powerful experience for me too. Jairus pleads at the feet of Jesus for the sake of his family and invites Jesus into his home. By his faith, his daughter is healed, and his family is kept whole. Jairus's faith in Jesus inspires me. Juxtaposed with the father in chapter nine, Jairus is a father with abounding faith. Both men, however, are an example for me. While Jairus is a model of unceasing prayer and profound faith, the other unnamed father shows me that Jesus is merciful to those who seek his help even amid doubt.

I also realized I identified with the children in these stories. I have had my share of spiritual battles over the years. My parents' persistent prayers and faith helped me to overcome them. One day I will write about my battle with pediatric cancer and how my parents' faith and the prayers of so many led to my healing.

In the meantime, I plan to continue to call my dad from time to time to ask for the manual on raising children because it's fun. The men in Mark's Gospel, and my own parents, show me the importance of prayer as a parent. Whether in times of doubt or abounding in faith, I am called to continue to fall on my knees at the feet of Jesus, and pray.

A Prayer Guide For Parents

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