Messing With My Theology

I have lost count of how many times I have heard preachers and teachers say that they are going to mess with my theology and mind you, I have no problem with this because I love to be challenged to think and to see things from a new and sometimes different perspective. However, what I dislike is when preachers and teachers mess with my theology but fail to explain how they arrived at the new perspective they are sharing with me. Case in point, this preacher said that when Jesus told his disciples that “…this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting,” Jesus was talking about their faith and not the evil spirit that had possessed the young man (John 17:21).

A different take, right? To better understand what was going on in this passage, let’s look at the story in its entirety. After Jesus came down from the mountain of Transfiguration with Peter James, and John, a multitude was waiting for him. A desperate father was among the multitude. He approached Jesus and told him that he had brought his son to the disciples to cast out the evil spirit within him. However, the disciples failed to do so. When Jesus learned of this, he upbraided the disciples for their lack of faith which resulted in their inability to cast out the evil spirit. Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Mark 9:41). Jesus then asked that the man’s son be brought to him, and he rebuked the evil spirit, and it left him.

The disciples were baffled. They could not understand why they could not cast out the evil spirit, so sometime later, they asked Jesus why they could not do what he did. The reason Jesus gave was their unbelief. “Because of your little faith [your lack of trust and confidence in the power of God]; for I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have [living] faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and [if it is God’s will] it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. [But this kind of demon does not go out except by prayer and fasting.]” (Matthew 17:20-21, AMP). Prior to this, I doubt the disciples thought they had unbelief, but clearly, they did, for Jesus said that if they had had even a mustard seed size faith, they could have accomplished much more than casting out the evil spirit out of the young man.

So, back to what the preacher said. I believe the point he was making is this… When we pray and fast, it is not for the evil spirit to be cast out because by themselves prayer and fasting cannot accomplish this feat, but rather it is to build our faith, so we can cast out the evil spirit. It takes faith to cast out evil spirits. This is what Jesus said. Let me further explain. We can pray and fast as many times and for as long as we want—40, 10, 5, 2, 1 day, you name it and still not be able to cast out an evil spirit because it is not about the act of praying and fasting, it is about what happens during prayer and fasting, which is the building up of our faith, the weakening of our fleshly desires, and the strengthening of the Holy Spirit in us, so God can work through us to cast out evil spirits and to do the miraculous.

Ultimately, even the smallest amount of unbelief will render us useless even if we pray and fast. On the other hand, even if we do not pray and fast but have mustard seed size faith, we can accomplish much more than casting out evil spirits. We can move mountains or, rather, those problems that stand before us like mountains. I say this because notice Jesus said that if the disciples had not had unbelief, they could have cast out the evil spirit, so their inability to cast out the evil spirit had nothing to do with them not praying and fasting. It had everything to do with their unbelief. So, no wonder the preacher pointed out that the priority that Jesus was addressing in this verse is not necessarily the need to pray and fast to cast out evil spirits but the need to build or strengthen our faith through prayer and fasting, so we can cast out evil spirits. The heart of the matter is, we may be able to cast out evil spirits without prayer and fasting, but we cannot cast out evil spirits without faith.