As I mentioned on Monday, the regular devotionals this week (Tues, Wed, and Thurs) will focus on topics related to what's in store for us this coming Sunday.
As a preview:
Tuesday: topic of fasting and prayer
Wednesday: nature of demonic oppression and demonization and freedom from both
Thursday: authority and power in the arena of spiritual warfare
Let me say this: things such as demons, deliverance, and spiritual warfare should not
be objects of fear. The Bible talks about them matter of factly. They are part of the furniture
of our world. Avoiding them, not thinking about them will not make them any less
influential nor make them disappear. Just as we would want to know the causes of diabetes
or heart disease, we would want to know the causes of some of our spiritual problems.
It's better to be "clinical" with demons and such rather than get "emotional" or "spiritual."
Less hype and less hysteria the better. More rational and more calm the better.
We want clarity.
This Sunday is about Release of New Authority and Power in the Area of Spiritual Warfare.
But if we have unholiness in our lives and/or demonic oppression and/or demonization in our lives at the same time we ask for greater authority and power, it's a like laying down a beautiful oriental rug over a muddy floor. For us to receive and move properly
with the new authority and power, it behooves us to get cleaned up and healed up. It's a process and it's better to begin the process than not start at all. Hence the corporate deliverance time, to get the process going for many of us.
So.... here's the passage for us to consider today:
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]”
Mark 9:29 Some manuscripts prayer and fasting
A regular part of Jesus' earthly ministry involved casting out demons from people. Along with healing and preaching about the Kingdom of God, Jesus delivered people from unclean spirits. Sometimes the ones demonized and their bystanders were aware of the demonic (like the Gerasene demoniac, Mark 5:1-17); other times, they were not so aware, until the demons left (like the woman crippled for 18 years, Luke 13:10-17).
Demons and demonization are much more common than most of us realize. It's hard to give an accurate figure, but let's just say it's about as common as A+ blood type.
The passage above is insightful. Jesus casts out an impure spirit (same thing as a "demon") from a boy. Apparently the disciples had attempted to cast out the demon too but to no avail. So they ask Jesus why. Jesus says, "This kind can come out only by prayer." Other ancient manuscripts say, "This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting." The variant reading indicates that fasting adds something to prayer. Prayer, of course, is important. But why fasting?
Why, for example, did Jesus fast and pray for 40 days in the wilderness before his public ministry? Why did the early church fast and pray (Acts 13:3; 14:23)? Why not simply pray? Is fasting a decorative piece, like adding a curlicue at the bottom of your signature? Apparently not. In a world especially where food was sometimes scarce, people would not sensibly fast, unless there's some rationale behind it.
There are many ways to describe the positives of fasting, from the medical point of view of bringing greater clarity to thought, to living longer.
But spiritually, when one fasts things get heightened. Because we are a composite being made of material and immaterial parts (body, soul, and spirit), our physical condition can and does affect our spiritual condition. Try it: don't sleep for three days and you'll feel lousy spiritually.
Fasting alone -- meaning not eating -- isn't all that spiritual. Fasting alone is called "starvation." The key component is prayer. It's fasting-and-prayer as one thing.
When we fast-and-pray we direct our attention on God, our senses get sharper, our appetite for God gets deeper, our weaknesses get more pronounced, our satisfaction in God gets fuller, our communion with God gets sweeter. Things actually get harder -- harder to be nice, patient, kind, less self-centered, etc. Fasting makes you feel grumpy and weak (and most obviously, really hungry). But if you work through this, then the other side can be heavenly: you sense God's presence more intensely, you hear God's voice more sharply, you get more tender and vulnerable to God's love. That's why some people look forward to fasting-and-praying.
But more than all this, the Lord responds to our acts of love and devotion. Fasting is not manipulating God to love us more. There might be some people who think this way: "I'll force God's hand by doing something sacrificial" but this thought is unbiblical and God will not be manipulated. The Lord sees our fasting-and-praying for what it is: a display of our longing for more of God. God, being the Supreme Person of Love, always responds to acts of love. Love Requited.
We fast from food in order to feast on God. When we fast as suggested or asked by the Lord, then we can be assured that He is setting us up for something good.
That, in a nutshell (inedible), is biblical, New Testament fasting. Fasting dries up the muddy floor and makes the floor (our spiritual condition) ready for the beautiful rug.
For those who need food for medical reasons, please do not fast. For those whose work requires physical energy, consider a juice fast. For others, like me who are essentially sedentary, give up food and just drink water, with black coffee (IHOP style).