25When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." 26The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" 29He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer" (Mark 9:14-29).
In our meditation yesterday, we began to look at the verses above containing one of the secrets of moving in the Holy Spirit's power: prayer. The nine disciples thought they had the casting out of this evil spirit covered without Jesus. The previous passage tells us that Christ had been up on a mountain with James, John, and Peter. In a parallel passage, Matthew (17:20) writes that when the nine disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the spirit, the Lord responded saying that their lack of faith was the problem. The translators took out verse 21, because not so many old manuscripts have this verse in the text. The verse taken out says, “this kind does not go out but by prayer and fasting.” You will usually find it explained at the bottom of the page. A lifestyle of prayer and fasting is the key to difficult situations resistant to regular prayer, counseling, and sound advice. Prayer and fasting is the key to overcome stubborn problems, not just deliverance from evil spirits, but to all kinds of difficulties that are unanswered in prayer. We get power and insight from God's Spirit as we wait in dependence on Him through prayer and fasting.
As long as our motives are right, there is an increase in the Holy Spirit's anointing or presence that comes during prayer and fasting. Isaiah 58 talks about the right motives in fasting. In Acts (see below), we see the church fasting and praying, after which the Holy Spirit spoke into their situation with a clear call for them to lay hands on Saul (Paul the apostle) and Barnabas to release them for ministry into other lands:
1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod, the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3, emphasis mine).
The early Church fasted and prayed earnestly. This denial of themselves was the secret to their miraculous power from God and confident faith. When Jesus said to the nine disciples: “this kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:14-29), He wasn't talking about sending the man and his son away while the disciples took a few days in prayer and fasting. He said that if you want to be a person that moves in the power of the Spirit to any degree, you will have times where you give yourself to prayer and fasting. When a situation surfaces, a man or woman of God must be ready to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit due to the kind of prayer life they lead rather than taking the time to fast and pray when a need arises. Indeed, if there is time to seek God for a need in your family or work or life in general, then schedule a fast. Plan the days you will spend in fasting, prayer, and seeking God. You will find many persistent problems in yourself, and others are resolved through fasting and prayer. Keith Thomas
This meditation is a shortened version from the more in-depth study found here