"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:24).
What is clear from this man's prayer is that he should be teaching at the seminary. For he understands the true theology of faith: that faith and unbelief are found in the same heart. Looking in his own heart, he formulates a five-word confession and prayer among the most insightful in the New Testament.
He is saying to Jesus, "The problem is not that I don't believe. The problem is that I don't believe!" In other words, "I've got faith, but I've got unbelief too. Help me!"
Let us make two points.
1. This prayer is reassuring. If you're a Christian and experience doubt, you needn't worry. It is to be expected. But true doubt is only possible right next to true faith. Think of faith less like a bright sunny day and more like a candle burning in a dark room. Faith burns as a candle in the darkness of our own sinful, unbelieving hearts.
Our faith is not yet all it should be, but it is enough. Luther said, "On earth the heart can never attain or feel faith to such a degree as it should; but it always stays in the stage of a wishing and a sighing of the spirit, too deep for a man to express. Then the heart says: 'Oh, that it were true!' Again: 'Ah, if only one could believe it!' Nevertheless, this sighing and this spark of faith achieve so much that God regards them as a complete faith and says: 'According to your faith be it unto you; and because you believe, you are certainly saved.'"
Ask yourself not, "How much faith do I have?" But rather, "How much Christ?" And the answer is: All of Him, crucified and risen!
2. The Lord is responding. Pray this five-word prayer and then know that your Lord is responding. He comes running to anyone who prays this prayer and gives them His sure Word and strengthening Sacrament. He is risen, dear Christian, for this purpose, and to keep your little flame from ever going out.
Now practice praying, "I believe; help my unbelief!"