“Help Thou Mine Unbelief”

Immediately after a transcendent experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus and three of His apostles were approached by a troubled father. His son had a terrible condition that caused him to behave irrationally and dangerously. “A spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him” (Luke 9:39). “Ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water” (Matthew 17:15). That was the terrible condition of the boy. Then, the father added, “I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him” (Matthew 17:16, Luke 9:40).

When Jesus had called his twelve apostles, He had given them “power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1; see also Mark 3:15). Did the father know that? He certainly knew that the apostles believed they had that power, and that their efforts to use it had been in vain. Did that failure make it harder for him to believe? Of course it did. So when Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Matthew 9:23), there was a question implied in this promise: “Can you believe? Can you overcome the doubt and disappointment and summon a second round of belief in the face of my disciples’ failure to heal your son?”

I love the father’s response: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). It’s a beautifully paradoxical statement of faith. He wants to believe, and he is willing to commit to believe. At the same time, he frankly acknowledges the limitations of his faith, his own doubts and fears. And he pleads for the Savior to help him believe, which is itself an act of faith.

After the missionary Aaron taught the king of the Lamanites about the existence of God and invited him to pray, the king offered the following prayer, which like the father in the story above, blends an intent to believe with an honest acknowledgement of his doubts:

O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

Alma 22:18

There is something powerful about a sincere declaration of faith, coupled with an honest acknowledgment of our own limitations. Moroni promised that we will receive answers if we pray “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4). It can be hard to acknowledge the gap between the faith we wish we had and the faith we actually have, but that sincere acknowledgement, coupled with that declaration of intent, can open the door for Him to increase our faith.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of a 14-year old young man who said, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” Elder Holland praised this young man “for the honesty of his quest” (“Lord, I Believe,” General Conference, April 2013).

Today, I will approach God in prayer as I really am. I will express my faith while acknowledging that it is imperfect. I will trust Him not only to respond to my belief but also to help me with my unbelief.

2 thoughts on ““Help Thou Mine Unbelief”

Add yours

  1. This same level of pure faith in the Master Healer applies in our lives regardless of the level of our personal witness of Him. He will assuredly enter our story as soon as we humbly put our hand in His.


    1. Thank you for those beautiful words of reassurance! It’s a great reminder that we need never feel insecure about reaching out to Him. He loves us and is eager to bless us. I’m grateful for your example of faith which I’ve been privileged to observe over many years. Have a great day!


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