40“I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.” 41And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was still approaching, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father (Luke 9:40-42).
The Lord Jesus had been training the disciples for three years to heal the sick and cast out demons (Luke 9:1-2). He also sent 72 others to do the same thing (Luke 10:1, 9, 17). Now, just before He departed for Jerusalem, and with it, His departure from this earth, nine of his disciples were incapable of casting out a demon from a man’s son. Doesn't it seem as if the Lord got upset and frustrated at the disciples in the verses above? He said they were “unbelieving and perverse” [or distorted] (Luke 9:41). The Fall in the Garden of Eden has made humanity into an unbelieving people, having a distorted view of God and His ability to use us in ministry toward those held in bondage to sin and evil. A person's frustration is often visual evidence showing what they care about. Jesus cared that the disciples, His representatives, were able to minister in God's power and deliver people from spiritual bondage. As believers, each of us is to learn to exercise the ministry of Jesus on the earth in Christ's name. The nine disciples took the time to pray for the boy, but they moved from trusting the power and authority of Christ to believe that it was faith in the process. The presence of Christ in us is the key, not the method or system on which we tend to lean.
What happened to the disciple’s faith? They had ministered in this way before, so why couldn’t they cast the evil spirit out of the boy? It is essential to Christ that His Church, His called-out ones, understand that we are supernatural people invested with divine power and authority to do His work.
We live in a day where the Church in the West, to the most part, relies on intellect more than God's power, but the mind will only get us so far. The time has gone for business as usual; the harvest is too great. We need to be multiplying disciples. We cannot rest on what we can do in our strength to get the gospel out to a lost world. We need the whole Church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world! Do you know that the population of the world only passed one billion in the year 1830? Then it took 130 years before it got to two billion people. The world population is now 7.9 billion people (2021) and growing at one billion every ten years. More than half the amount of people who have ever lived are currently alive. Think about that! Only as we step out in God's power, exercising His authority, will the Church ever get into multiplication mode where we see whole cities come to Christ? Is that not possible? If it was possible in the Book of Acts, why would it not be possible today? (Acts 9:35).
The Lord was frustrated at the nine disciples because He wanted them to work under the Holy Spirit's power and not rely on their abilities. Human intelligence and soul energy are not going to change the world. The power of God was, and is, the need of the hour! God's work needs God's power.
28And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:28-29 KJV).
When they asked why they couldn't cast out the boy's evil spirit, He told them it was because of their lack of faith. But then he explained something interesting: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Some Greek manuscripts do not include this passage, so the New International Version translators decided to put verse 21 down at the bottom of the page. The King James Version includes it. The Lord is saying that a life characterized by prayer and fasting will always be ready to handle any situation we come across.
I am thankful for this nugget of truth. It explains that there are some situations we encounter, which can only be resolved by a greater level of the presence and power of God upon us, a life of regular prayer and fasting. One needs time to fast and pray, and it is often not possible to ask a person to come back later to give us time to fast and pray. If only the nine had known beforehand that they would encounter a spirit that would resist their commands to come out of the boy, they would have prepared themselves for the encounter. Jesus is advocating a lifestyle of prayer and fasting that is ready for any situation. I don't believe the words "this kind" refers only to a strong evil spirit; I think it relates to stubborn problems in our lives, which a typical habit of prayer has not resolved. In this instance, there was a spiritual stronghold that needed to be broken by prayer and fasting. Keith Thomas
This study is from a more in-depth study on Spiritual Warfare. Click here if you’d like to understand more on this topic.