Parallel Bible passages in Mark and Matthew relate the story about Jesus interacting with the father of a demonized boy. The father had brought the boy to Christ’s disciples but they could not drive the demon out. Jesus immediately called the spirit out of the boy and declared to his father that “this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) The account in Mark (Mark 9:29) says, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (NIV). What can we learn about deliverance ministry from this encounter?
Many of our clients refer to this Scripture as they relate their own attempts to get free from a particular torment. They are often convinced that the particular kind of demon they have requires prayer and fasting by them so they can ultimately be set fee. Many have pursued that path to secure their freedom yet not seen the victory. Why is that? What is the correct interpretation?
Let’s examine the encounter in more detail and see what is revealed. All Scripture needs to be studied for what it reveals, how to interpret it and then, most importantly, how to apply it. My experience as a Christian counselor (not as a pastor, theologian or Bible scholar) is that many people will read a particular verse (or passage), interpret it reasonably well but misapply it to their own life situation. The result can be disappointment and disillusionment as their faith takes a hit.
In that account with the man, we must first notice that the disciples, for whatever reason, were unsuccessful in their attempts to drive the demon out of the man’s son. The disciples had, at other times, gone out to preach, heal and deliver and seen success. What was the problem here?
Does Jesus Have More Power Than Us?
Some contend that Jesus’ superior power and anointing were the difference. I submit that was not the case. Christ had given his disciples power and authority to drive out demons (Luke 9:1, Matthew 10:1), just as He has given to us for today (Mark 16:17). They had it!
Was this particular demon power powerful than others and able to somehow resist the commands to go? There is no scriptural support for that view. Some spirits are more wicked than others (Matt 12:45) but the power and authority of Christ are much greater (1 John 4:4) and the disciples had it).
Let’s look next at what Christ did not do before He called the spirit out of the boy.
- Jesus did not go away to fast and pray and then come back, and
- He did not command the boy (nor his father) to go away to fast and pray and then come back.
Why do we look at that scripture and presume that, in today’s worldview, the one receiving ministry is the one who needs to fast and pray before they can be set free? That is not the scenario described in those passages. Some presume that it is the minister who needs to do the fasting and to pray but, once again, we do not see Jesus go off to do that first.
We are to operate today just as Jesus did. He was fully man yet was empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to do the works of ministry. Nothing is different in that regard; He had no unfair advantage over us in that regard.
What did Jesus mean, specifically, when he said that a certain kind of demon only comes out by prayer and fasting?
Frankly, I am not sure. Many Christians, theologians, pastors and teachers, will debate and have various interpretations. I believe a clue may offered in the account of the seven sons of Sceva, who were engaged in deliverance ministry. A demon spirit confronted them and declared, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”.
The devil then beat them up, to the point that they ran from the house naked and bleeding. That encounter would be very humbling for anyone who purposes to venture into the realm of deliverance! It was certainly more dramatic than what the disciples experienced.
I think it is fair to conclude that using the name of Jesus is not enough; it is about being known by God and that implies a relationship. Even the demons know the name of Jesus, and tremble.
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and also to reveal the Father. He preached incessantly about a relationship with God and demonstrated His love everywhere He went.
Prayer, Fasting and Deliverance Ministry
I believe that Jesus’ explanation speaks significantly to this notion of the minister’s relationship with the Father. It was a warning against pursuing the same folly as Sceva’s sons.
Prayer, fasting and other spiritual disciplines should be part of every believer’s lifestyle and our journey in building that intimacy with Him. Jesus had that, walked in it and that is why He did not need to go off and prepare himself for the ministry encounter.
At Above & Beyond, we recognize that the power and authority to drive out demons has come from Christ Himself. We do not try to make ourselves “better” or more worthy because we know that we are already righteous and seated with Christ at the right hand of God.
We purpose to rest in that place and minister out of that position of power and authority while maintaining and strengthening the relationship with our Heavenly Father. We believe that following religious directives or performing particular tasks are not part of that process, but will only hinder us and try to bring us back under the law.
When clients ask us about that Scripture, we relate the explanation described above. We purposely downplay the mindset they may have that somehow they have not yet done enough for God to set them free. Fervent prayer or fasting are not mandatory prerequisites to being delivered and we do not put this yoke on our clients.
We encourage them to stir up their faith and do the preparatory homework we have for them before the deliverance session. We encourage them to fast, if the Lord leads them to, and believe that Christ will set them free and the rest truly is up to Him! That’s a good place to be.