Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10; Psalm 92(93):1-2,5; Mark 9:14-29
A gripping, vivid presentation of an incident in Jesus' life, which one suspects was typical of many 'a day in the life of' scenarios that the evangelist could have told us about. The poor child, possessed and subject to frequent fits, possibly had what we call epilepsy these days. It matters not whether this was a disease or an infernal possession - the prospects for the child would have been the same - very bleak, and likely a short life.
Notice that, not only is Jesus healing a child here - he would also have brought great relief to the child's family - their child restored to them in full health. Jesus is also teaching his disciples - and us - that everything - no limits here, but everything - can be achieved through prayer. There are plenty of cases of healings brought about at Lourdes and other places where healing is a feature of Gods grace in our own time. Also many more that although less noticeable, are happening around us. The prayers used in the sacrament of the sick bring comfort to the dying, and to their relatives. Sometimes, life is lengthened by these prayers - if that is Gods plan. Healing is often taking place through charismatic prayer groups, and through the sacrament of reconciliation which often leads to an inner peace and calm - a sign of healing from the stress and strain of living our imperfect life.
A technical sojourn:: A biblical scholar might note that the oldest (Hebrew / Aramaic texts) of this Gospel do not mention prayer and fasting - just prayer. In the Acts of the Apostles, for contrast, the disciples and apostles do use Prayer and Fasting before for example, laying hands on apostles who were to then take the word of Jesus out into the world. Our current lectionary was written by scholars who took the view that it seems more likely that the fasting part (in todays reading from Mark) was added by some editor at some point perhaps when translating the older texts into Greek for the new communities forming in the hellenistic parts of the middle east - which Mark's Gospel was intended for and those apostles would have taken copies of with themselves. Other English versions including the NCB which our forthcoming lectionary is to be based on, end today's verses with 'prayer and fasting' as they work only from the previously translated into Greek texts.
The core point shared by all these versions of the text - is that prayer is always the answer to life problems.