This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting
Matthew 17:10-27 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.
14 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.”
In today’s text Jesus tells the disciples a key to delivering those who are oppressed or possessed by evil. He says: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” According to Jesus then fasting and prayer go together. Do we today know the importance of fasting? Do we know how to fast? We tend to fast when we recognize that we are confronted by something that we cannot overcome. When a crisis arises we fast or we call for a fast. Jesus said that prayer and fasting was necessary for the result in today’s text, yet Jesus Himself didn’t stop to fast. He didn’t call for a fast. In fact, Jesus didn’t really pray according to the text. He rebuked the spirit and the demon came out. Without fasting or praying, Jesus delivered the boy.
Let’s look then at what fasting is and what it isn’t. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus says: “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Is it possible that we sometimes fast to appear holy and righteous in the sight of others? If our motive or method in fasting hopes to gain the attention of others, then their attention, and not the answer we seek is our reward. In Isaiah 5:5-9, God speaking through the prophet says: “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord? “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? “Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” Fasting is not about giving something up for a day or days. Giving things up does not make us more holy or righteous. What makes us more holy and righteous is drawing nearer to God, becoming aligned with His will and His purposes. In John 5:19-20, Jesus said of Himself: “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. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” That’s what God wants of us in fasting, to become aligned with His will, to do what He is doing. If we wait until we are confronted with a crisis to fast, then God’s time for overcoming the crisis may already be past.
When Jesus began His ministry, He began it also reading a quote from the prophet Isaiah. Luke 4:16-21 says: He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What Jesus fulfilled and the fast that God desires have a lot in common. If we want to do the things that Jesus did, like He says we will in John 14:12-14, then we need to live as Jesus lived, abiding in, aligned with God, His will and His purposes. If we fast, it is not to change God’s mind, but rather so that we know His heart.
In today’s text the disciples came to Jesus to learn why they were unable to do what He did. It says: “Why could we not drive it out?” 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. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” The word that is translated littleness of faith, oligópistos, actually has the connotation of, someone dull to hearing the Lord's voice, or disinterested in walking intimately with Him. It is not so much a matter of the amount or the size of our faith, but rather the intention or the leaning of our heart. If we, like Jesus, will only do what we see the Father doing, if we will only say what we hear the Father saying, then nothing will be impossible for us. The Father would probably never tell us to move literal mountains, but if He is doing it, we can do it with Him. The truth is though that as we walk through this life there will be many opportunities presented to us, to join the Father in what He is doing. If we will abide in Him, through the anointing and the indwelling Holy Spirit, then, like Jesus we can say: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” We can fast as God has chosen: To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? “Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ Nothing will be impossible!
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit thank You for creating me in Your image and likeness. ThankYou for granting me the privilege of joining You in what You are doing. Through the power of the cross and the resurrection, and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, may I live to know Your heart, to do Your will, to say what You are saying. As You sent Jesus for my sake, may You also send me for Your sake. Amen.