When Confronting Certain Spiritual Powers, Prayer and Fasting Are BOTH Required
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 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 [and fasting*]”
The modern world, especially in the West, has turned a blind eye to its roots, and now discounts the validity of demonic possession and oppression among people. It was once said that if the Gospel were told to those in psychiatric wards, most of them would be healed and set free (author unknown). Paul indicates that spiritual battle is not with people, but with the spiritual ranks of the enemy:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Here we see the evidence of demonic activity: A demon was causing a young boy to do things that were detrimental to his and other’s safety. The father of the boy even identifies the source of the issue as a “spirit”. Since God’s spirit is a spirit of love, this is obviously a spirit of the enemy – of the nature of Satan.
Most people would think that the first thing that Jesus would do is just command the spirit to leave the boy. But since Jesus is our teacher, He guides us in how we should address the issue. Jesus knows the truth about this (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), but for our benefit (just like He asked John to baptize Him even though He never sinned, to set an example for us to follow) He shows us the first step – engage in a little fact-finding. Jesus asks the father about the boy to get a better understanding of what is going on.
Be a Believer
Notice that it Jesus was looking to strengthen the faith of the father of the boy. Even in the midst of this, Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost. Jesus reassures the father of the boy that all things can be done for those who believe. We need to remember that when confronted with the activity of the enemy of our souls that has manifested in such a sinister way, we are to use these opportunities to help others to strengthen their belief and trust in God, or to instill a trust and belief in God.
There are two ways that demons can directly afflict people:
- Demonic POSSESSION
- If a person does not have the Spirit of God within them, they are subject to the god of this world, Satan. Once a person is freed from the control of any demons, they need to seek God to fill them with His Spirit:
24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
- Demonic OPPRESSION
- Christians are sealed with the blessed Holy Spirit. Once the Spirit of God has taken residence in a Christian’s body, He locks all the doors and keeps everyone else out. This does NOT mean that Christians cannot do things to give the devil a foothold in our lives. For instance, if Christians willingly participate in divination (witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, casting of lots, etc.), this can open a door through which the enemy of our souls can torment us and cause us much grief. This is not demonic POSSESSION, but rather OPPRESSION. While it may FEEL like demonic possession, the Holy Spirit of God seals us against such an opportunity. Turning towards the occult can make us vulnerable to believing the lies of the enemy, which can then cause havoc in our lives.
The enemy of our souls can also indirectly afflict us by sending thoughts into our minds to try to influence us.
Name the Name
The name of something is very powerful. It reveals the nature of it. Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “demon come out of him”. Jesus commands the evil spirit by its very nature. This is important, because it more specifically identifies who/what is causing the issue(s). Jesus elsewhere has commanded evil spirits to name themselves for this very purpose:
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Command and Control
Jesus then commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy. He doesn’t ask it, he doesn’t plead with it. He commands it. We are to do the same in the name of Christ. All authority and power resides in Jesus, not in us. Jesus has said that we would do what He has done and even greater things. All authority has been given to the disciples of Christ to do these very things to glorify the Father. When people who are not God’s try to do this, they do not have Christ’s authority, which can be detrimental to their well-being:
13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
So, what to do when faced with an evil spiritual entity that won’t listen? First remember that where two or more are gathered, there God is in the midst. Make sure that you have at least two mature, prayed-up, and fasting disciples present when confronting such a one as this. Fasting draws a person closer to God. By denying the flesh its wants and desires, the spirit of a man can draw even closer to God. Make sure that when fasting, and especially for this purpose, that all known sin is confessed and repented. Let there be nothing that any evil spirit can charge against you. While a water fast is good, a hard fast (no food nor water) may even be better.
We cannot make ourselves any more presentable to God, for the righteousness of Christ does that. By fasting, we are crucifying the flesh so that the spirit can draw even closer to God to do God’s will. When a person has fasted and prayed up, the demon may even flee in the presence of the holiness of God as He shines through you.
Once the person is in their right mind, and the demon or demons have left the person (either come out of them or fled from their presence), talk with the person to have them identify what issue has occurred that allowed this in the first place (sin for the disciple of Christ, or lead that person to the Gospel of Christ, who is probably now in a better position to hear, understand, and accept that God needs to be in control of their lives rather than the enemy of our souls).
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Am I drawing close to God as I should?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You have promised Your children that You would never leave them nor forsake them. Forgive me, Most Holy God, for my every sin. Reveal to me where I have been disobedient to You, so that I may confess my sin, renounce any spiritual activity that is not of Your nor approved by You, and please close every door that I may have opened in this process. Help me to live in Your freedom, for if the Son sets me free, I am free indeed. Help me to draw as close as I can to You, that I would be as far as I can from doing what the enemy of my soul desires for me to do, so that You would be honored and glorified. Prepare me as the sanctuary for Your Spirit, pure and holy, set apart for You and You alone. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?
*Notes: This blog has been edited for formatting and punctuation.
“And fasting” does not appear in all the texts. However, this is a tried and true method to draw the disciple of Christ closer to God. When the flesh is crucified, the spirit can flourish. In spiritual warfare, this is especially true. The value of fasting is very evident in the life of Jesus AND His disciples – “when you fast…” When confronting these issues, engage a more seasoned Christian who has experience in this field. Or contact a Christian group who can point you to someone who can guide you in how to proceed (Focus on the Family offers counceling and assistance with all manners of Christian issues – 1-800-A-FAMILY / 1-800-232-6459)