Summary: Why do followers of Jesus fail? (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: Mark chapter 9 verse 14-29.


Stephen Pile – Book of Heroic Failures.


• The prize for the most useless weapon of all times goes to the Russians.

• They invented the “dog mine.”

• The plan was to train the dogs to associate food with the undersides of tanks,

• In the hope that they would run hungrily beneath advancing Panzer divisions.

• Bombs were then strapped to the dogs’ backs,

• Which endangered the dogs to the point where no insurance company would look at them.

• The plan was begun the first day of the Russian involvement in World War II;

• And abandoned on day two.

• Unfortunately, the dogs with bombs on their backs had only been trained on Russian tanks;

• They forced an entire Soviet division to retreat.


• During 1978 during the fireman’s strike in England,

• The British army took over emergency fire-fighting (Green Goddesses).

• On January 14 they were called out by an elderly lady in South London to retrieve her cat.

• They arrived with impressive haste, very cleverly and carefully rescued the cat,

• And started to drive away.

• But the lady was so grateful she invited the squad of heroes in for tea.

• Driving off later with fond farewells and warm waving of arms,

• They ran over the cat and killed it.

In Mark chapter 9:

• The disciples of Jesus could have been heroes!

• But sadly they end up as failures!

• We will see in this story one reason why the followers of Jesus fail;

• And hopefully we might learn not to make the same mistake.

(1). Cause of failure - Prayer ignored (vs 28-29).

• In chapter 3 verses 14-15 Jesus sent the disciples out to preach, heal and cast out demons;

• And up to this incident it seems they had been successful.

• Puzzled as to why on this occasion they had failed in their ministry;

• They wait for a private moment and ask Jesus what they had done wrong.

“After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately,

"Why couldn't we drive it out?"

29 He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer. "”

• Jesus tells them straight;

• He puts his finger right on the spot by saying;

• They failed because they did not pray.

• They were trying to remedy the situation in their own strength and power.

• The principle here that we need to note, is that:

• ‘You cannot have victory in public unless you are vigilant in private!’

The disciples' needed reminding that the power and authority to heal was not their own:

• It came from Jesus. It was delegated by Jesus and it is sustained by Jesus.

• To act independently of him is a guarantee to fail!


• It was the late American pastor and author Donald Barnhouse;

• Who stunned his congregation one Sunday by declaring; “Prayer changes nothing”.

• The church was packed full of people,

• Yet you could have heard a pin drop.

• Now his comment was deliberately designed to make folks think.

• The point he wanted to make was; “It is God who THROUGH prayer changes things!”


• I like the story of the 72 year old woman;

• Who went to bed one night and prayed this prayer;

• “Please God give me the skin like a teenager’s”

• The next morning she woke up covered in acne!


• A more series story is told about a particular region of Africa,

• Where the first converts to Christianity were very diligent about praying.

• In fact, the believers each had their own special place;

• Outside the village where they went to pray in solitude.

• The villagers reached these “prayer rooms”

• By using their own private footpaths through the brush.

• When grass began to grow over one of these trails,

• It was evident that the person to whom it belonged was not praying very much.

• Because these new Christians were concerned for each other’s spiritual welfare,

• A unique custom sprang up.

• Whenever anyone noticed an overgrown “Prayer path,”

• He or she would go to the person and lovingly warn, “Friend, there’s grass on your path!”

Question: Christian is there grass on your path?

• Remember that you......

• ‘You cannot have victory in public unless you are vigilant in private!’


• Story told about a Jewish man in New York who bought a little shop;

• Problem was it was squeezed in between two gigantic department stores.

• He wondered what to call his little shop,

• After much thought he decided to call it ‘ENTRANCE!’

• As Christians we have 24/7 entrance into God’s presence.

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