Why Do We Need To Pray And Fast?
This week I taught my congregation from the passage in Mark’s gospel chapter 9:14-29. In this passage we see that the disciples were unable to cast out a demonic force and everyone came rushing back to Jesus to take care of the problem. You will see that there are 2 major forces in play here in the deliverance of this child from this demonic possession. They are belief and intimacy with God. Both of these forces are intertwined with one another. The more intimate you get with God the more you are able to believe because your experience tells you that God is reliable and trustworthy. So let’s look at this passage and then I will show you how they tie together.
Prayer and Fasting in Mark’s gospel
A Boy Is Healed
14 And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. 15 Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. 16 And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”
17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”
19 He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe,[a] all things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.
The importance of being transparent with God
I want to give you two Greek definitions to help you understand what is actually being said in this passage. The Greek word for belief is Pisteuo, which means to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in of the thing believed, to credit, have confidence, in a moral or religious reference.The Greek word here for unbelief is Apistia which means unfaithfulness, faithless, want of faith, unbelief, weakness of faith.
So when Jesus asked the man to believe, the man was honest and transparent. He believed but at the same time He had doubts. This shows that God does not demand blind faith or perfect faith but that He is only looking for sincere and growing faith. This is one of the reasons I am so opposed to those that would try to use a person’s faith as an escape clause and say “if you have enough faith”. This always leads people to disappointment and discouragement because when something doesn’t come to pass, they blame themselves. God just wants to know you are heading the right direction, seeking the right things, and maturing in your relationship with Him.
The importance of intimacy with God shown by prayer and fasting.
The second force in the deliverance of the child was what I call intimacy with God. Prayer and fasting were never meant to be religious exercises. They were meant to be methods of communication and acts of affection. Again I want to show you why I believe this way based on the Greek text.
- Prayer. The Greek word here is Proseuche which means prayer addressed to God, a place set apart or suited for the offering of prayer, a synagogue, a place in the open air where the Jews were wont to pray, outside the cities, where they had no synagogue, such places were situated upon the bank of a stream or the shore of a sea, where there was a supply of water for washing the hands before prayer. I want to emphasize here that not only did the word mean to address something to God but also to set apart a place for where those prayers are offered. That doesn’t mean you need to build a little shrine in your home, but it does mean that you get away to a place of privacy to pray and give your undivided attention to that prayer. When you set apart a place to get alone with God it shows that your communication with God is important to you. It is more than just rattling off a want list or just praying for others. It shows you planned ahead.
- Fasting. The Greek word here is Nesteia which means a fasting, fast a voluntary, as a religious exercise, of private fasting. In the most simple form, fasting is not giving yourself something that you need in order to use that time or money saved for the glory of God. It is not just depriving yourself. That is just the negative side of it. It is also proactive and you are to use whatever it is that you are abstaining from to draw closer to the Lord. It is compared to choosing to deny yourself the pleasure of a new car for yourself and instead taking your spouse on a romantic trip, or a fishing trip depending on gender. When is the last time you gave up something you wanted or needed as an act of love towards the Lord?
When we place intimacy with the Lord above other things, the end result is that our belief level is increased. When a husband or wife tells their spouse that they are going to do something, the spouse doesn’t have trouble believing it will happen. The same thing is true in our love relationship with the Lord. When He tells us that He is going to do something, we get to the point we just know that it will be done.