Jan. 26, 2017

Except by prayer and fasting

Matthew 17:14-27 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” 17 And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20 And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

22 And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.

24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”


Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”… “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”     When we look at the timing and the circumstances of this account there may be something we can learn and apply in our own lives. Very often when we, or someone close to us are facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, trial or tribulation or when we face a difficult decision, it is then that we fast. We see in the text that Jesus says: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”   Yet Jesus didn’t call for a fast. He didn’t wait until He had fasted and prayed. He spoke to and rebuked the demon. It is at this point that Jesus says the inability of the disciples was based on the littleness of their faith, that with faith the size of a mustard seed they could command a mountain to move. How do we get that kind of faith?

Is it possible that we misunderstand fasting and even prayer? Rather than fast and pray about the obstacle standing in our way, is it perhaps that fasting and prayer is meant to increase our faith. The purpose of fasting and praying is not that we would change God’s mind, convincing Him to do something or pleading with Him. Rather, it is that we ourselves would be changed. The purpose of a fast is to remove things which may distract us from fellowship with and devotion to God. Prayer is communication with God. It’s more than asking God to do things. It’s also listening to Him. The psalmist says: Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)    Is it possible that if we were too fast and pray, our communion and our communication, our delighting ourselves with God would increase our faith? Rather than praying about our problems, the obstacles standing before us, we could then speak to them, commanding them to move. In yesterday’s text Jesus said:  “ I also say to you… I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19) He didn’t say we would fast and pray, but that we would bind and loose. Jesus says that based on our knowledge and faith in Him, as the Christ, even the gates of Hell cannot stand against us.  

In John 14:12-14 Jesus says:   “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”      Jesus says we can move mountains. He gave His disciples authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons. When Jesus walked here as a man, He was fully connected to God the Father. He spent time in prayer, in communion and communication with the Father. In John 5:19 Jesus says:   "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”    Jesus was able to minister as He did because He was connected to the Father. What He did, He saw the Father doing already in the Spirit.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is a familiar rallying cry to the church for prayer. God says: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.     We need to understand that God already wants to heal our land. When Jesus came to give His life, along with forgiveness of and redemption from sin for people, He came to restore all of creation from the curse of sin.  If we will seek the face of God, humbly praying and communing with Him, if we will fast so that nothing will distract us from the first and foremost thing in our lives: To love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and mind. Then our hearts and minds will be aligned with His. Our faith will increase as we see in the heavenly realm what God is doing and has done in the circumstances we face. Our faith will increase, knowing we are only doing what God the Father is doing. We will do the works that Jesus did, the works the Father was doing. We will move mountains, either metaphorical or physical. The gates of Hell will not stand against us, nothing will be impossible.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit sometimes the obstacles I face seem too large, too difficult to overcome, surely too big to move. Sometimes it seems I can only pray as the Father of the boy needing a miracle prayed:  I believe, help my unbelief. Yet I know that if I will humbly seek Your face, turning to You and away from sin and anything that would distract me from You, if I will delight myself in You, in Your presence, I will see the things You are doing. I will see the things You have already done. My faith will increase as my will becomes one with Yours and together with You, nothing will be impossible. In the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, the Christ I pray, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.   Amen.