I never thought much about that little two-letter word “if” until just recently, when I read the following verses:

And He asked the scribes, What question ye with them? And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto Thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto Him: and when He saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And He asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but IF thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Mark 9:16-22

There it is, 13 words back, in the last verse. I am a fan of looking up King James words in a dictionary so that I can be sure I fully grasp all of the meanings of a word; it is the old English teacher in me, I suppose. Still, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I took the time to look up this word “if” in the dictionary. Here are a few of the words that caught my attention:

  • “The sign of a condition; it introduces a conditional sentence”
  • “Let the thing take place; allow”

Most of us understand the first definition, but the second definition opens a different door. We read these words in Matthew 8:2, 3: “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

The leper is saying to the Lord, “Let the healing begin; please allow it.”

That seems to have faith attached to it. In Mark 9:22, however, the “if” is more like a conditional sentence.

When you pray to God for a specific request which “if” do you use? Is it a conditional request with a question or is it a request in faith that says, “Allow this now, Lord”?

Someone wrote this about the little word “if:”

“The IF word is a deceitful trap. IF is a statement in a sinkhole of doubt. “God, IF You can heal me, please do so.” Prayers are hindered by our IF words. “Father, IF You are able, please deliver me from this oppression.” IF. The IF word calls God out into the open and then slaps Him. IF. “I believe that Jesus Christ is God IF He can show me that He is omnipotent.” IF makes faith stand alone in a timeout corner. IF is dressed in dirty rags, but faith wears royal apparel. IF crawls around in the dark like a lost roach. It was a child’s father that said IF to Jesus: “IF thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.”IF? IF? IF God can do anything? The father of the demon-possessed boy did not just ask for divine compassion, but also for divine help. IF You can, Lord. IF You are willing, Jesus. (Mark 9:22)The boy’s father cried out IF; IF You have the power; IF You are willing. This IF word is completely misplaced and shrouded in wondering conditions.

I am glad the story does not end in verse 22, because in verse 23 the Lord says, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Did you see what the Lord just did? In the face of a man’s questions and doubts, Jesus turns the tables on him by using the very same word: “If.”

Oh, how loving, compassionate, and kind our Savior is! Jesus does not correct the dad, but He does turn the IFword back on him when He says,IF thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Always seek to increase your faith in what God can do and what God wants to do in your life. The “IF” word seems more promising if the words are directed at us, rather than us directing it to God.

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, IF ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. – Matthew 17:20

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. – James 1:5