Not so fast.
Just before we pull up a chair and listen in as Jesus talks personally with his disciples, there is something we need to discuss. Jesus has just come down from the Transfiguration when a father brings his young demon-tormented son to Him. While the disciples had tried to help the boy, they had been unsuccessful. Asking Jesus why they had been unable to cast out the demon, he responds “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”1
Fasting is praying intentionally, foregoing food or something else we regularly partake of, for a season - for a specific reason. The discipline of fasting is mentioned more than 70 times in the Scripture and Jesus felt so strongly about it that he fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness as he started his ministry.
It just so happens that the last subject matter in the book I just taught, Pray First: the transformative2 power of a life built on prayer3 is that of fasting. I find the juxtaposition of this and where we find ourselves in Mark chapter 9 more than just coincidence; it is cause to stop and take notice. Have most of us dismissed the spiritual discipline of fasting as something only done by religious fanatics?
Yesterday on a drive from North Carolina to New Jersey for a family event, I looked out at beautiful trees on both sides of the highway, then rich farmland, barns and silos in Pennsylvania, and I was thinking, thinking, thinking. Picking up my phone, I texted the one person I knew who has prioritized weekly fasting. Why? I asked the young California mother of four, and hey, what difference has it made? She answered almost immediately (the wonder of technology and when it is irreplaceable), that ->there had been a situation in her family’s life—a time when their endangered foster baby, whose very life hung in the balance, depended on what the court decided to do. So much of the process was out of her control… but God.
Segue... squirrel. The other day I passed a woman in a store with a tee shirt on that boasted those two words in crystals: But God. Now if I wore tee shirts, I might have been tempted to buy it from her. Why? Because those two words but God are game changers. Throughout Scripture, heck throughout my own life even, I remember things that have been nary impossible, but God. I digress . . .
So what difference did the young mother’s fasting make? She prayed intentionally along with fasting and saw God do what neither she nor her husband could. God moved mountains in the California family courts, protecting the baby boy, who is now several years later, their adopted son. I remember her bringing him to Bible study with her—we all took turns wanting to hold him and love on him; thankfully, she was a good sharer. Her strong, unwavering faith taught the 75 or so of us women who gathered weekly so very much. Faith + prayer + fasting -> watch God work.
Do any of these questions resonate with you?
1) Are you in need of healing or a miracle?
2) Do you have a friend or loved one—child or spouse, who need salvation/a relationship with God?
3) Do you need a fresh encounter with God yourself?
4) Do you need to break addictions or harmful behaviors in your life?
5) Do you desire to know God’s will or direction in your life—maybe revelation of your purpose?
or perhaps there is yet another situation that is fitting for you.
Fasting has the power to connect us to God and restore our intimacy and reliance on Him and Him alone. Fasting disconnects us from the world and its temptations, distractions, and appeals to our fleshly appetites.4 Nineteenth century South African pastor, teacher and writer Andrew Murray said, “Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal.” If that makes your heart beat faster, consider Murray’s next statement “Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.” Wow.
'Want to dig deeper into the types of fasts—from food, social media, technology …? Check out this incredible resource: https://21days.churchofthehighlands.com/fasting
'Watch a 30-minute talk on prayer/fasting? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvpFpqcSSt4
Okay, so what is it in your life that can only be accomplished through prayer and fasting? Would you want to join me and my young California mama friend fasting on Mondays—whaddayasay? Let’s do it together… setting time apart to pray because it is not enough to simply stop eating solid food, as an example—friend, we gotta get alone with God and pray intentionally about the breakthrough we need!
Breakthrough, the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es0FeZZ0zDM
In the footsteps of Jesus, gospel of Mark, 31.
1 – Mark 9.29, New King James Version. Interesting to note that some Bible translations render Jesus’ answer “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
2 – Huh, that word again – transformative. Transfiguration itself refers to a change in form or appearance, and the root, transfigure, simply means "to transform into something more beautiful or elevated,"
3 - Pray First: the transformative power of a life built on prayer, Chris Hodges
4 – ibid., p. 187