He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting (the text in these brackets does not appear in all of the manuscripts)].
Some of the greatest feats in the Bible were done by people who prayed AND fasted. Fasting is a nearly lost discipline in the American church. We have been so blessed by God, we truly miss our three square meals (and sometimes snacks in between) each day. People in Biblical times knew the value of fasting, and its importance.
In Mark 9:14-29, we see a desperate father looking to the disciples for help with his demonically possessed son. They had tried unsuccessfully to remove the spirit that had seized the boy and tried to kill him. Luke tells us, however, that Jesus had already given the disciples power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2). So what made this so difficult? Jesus provides us with the clue in His response to the disciples’ question about why they couldn’t drive it out – this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.
It wasn’t the act of prayer, or even fasting, that made it possible. It was the relationship with the Father that gave Jesus the ability to drive it out. Prayer is our first go-to for intimacy with God (although some find it through praise worship). However, we have a sin nature, and our flesh can cause us problems. The flesh is constantly crying out, “feed me”, “pamper me”, “I don’t want to”, and all other kinds of rebellion towards God. Paul said he beat his body into submission.
One of the easiest, or hardest – depending on your viewpoint, ways to bring your body back into submission is fasting. The flesh greatly dislikes being denied its pleasures – food, sexual gratification, comfort, etc. When we fast, the flesh initially protests. But after a while, it calms down, and we experience a type of peace that we don’t normally have when we eat. As our bodies are brought into submission, we are able to draw ever so much closer to God in prayer.
Jesus knew this spiritual discipline, and practiced it often. When the Holy Spirit let Him out into the desert to be tempted (tested) by the devil, He was fasting. He was fasting the day that he drove out the spirit from the boy that was brought to Him. Jesus is our role model. We should walk as He walked. And He fasted. Even the Pharisees fasted, but to outwardly show their piousness, rather than draw close to God. Daniel, when seeking an answer, fasted by only eating simple food to mourn and draw close to God.
Are you lacking power in your spiritual life? Do you require answers in order to move on? Do you seek a more intimate relationship with God? Be obedient to God’s word, and fast. Tell God in prayer that it is the desire of your heart to draw close to Him, and when you fast, He will meet with you in a mighty way.
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, it is my desire to draw very close to You. Help me to overcome my flesh, and be obedient to Your word. Help me to set aside time to fast, that I may experience Your presence and power in a more intimate, satisfying, and joyful way. Help me to bring my flesh into submission through fasting. Grant Your servant success that it might bring glory to Your name. This I humbly pray in the character of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?