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ONLY BY PRAYER AND FASTING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 14, 2009

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting”
(Mark 9:29).


Spurgeon thought that this account of the demonized youth, in Matthew 17 and Mark 9, was so important that he preached on these passages over and over again. Spurgeon printed 3 sermons on the passage in Matthew 17, and 6 more sermons on the passage in Mark 9. Yet I think it would be hard to find a modern sermon on these verses. Since the latter part of Spurgeon’s ministry modern textual criticism has removed these verses from our Bibles. Even the Scofield Study Bible, in the “i” note in the center column on Matthew 17:21, says, “The two best MSS. omit v. 21.” And the “u” note on Mark 9:29 says, “The two best MSS. omit ‘and fasting.’”

Now, I can’t go into this in detail. I will simply say that two ancient manuscripts, leaving out this verse, were discovered in the late 19th century. This led nearly everyone to discard the words “and fasting.” As an indirect result Christians have forgotten the importance of fasting for the conversion of sinners. I call your attention to several points connected with this.

I. First, textual criticism, which removes this text, has weakened the churches
of the last days.

I know that there are those who disagree. They say that great scholarly light has been shed on things not known before. But my former pastor Dr. Timothy Lin disagreed. He earned a Ph.D. in Semitic Languages. He taught Biblical Hebrew at the graduate school of Bob Jones University, and was president of the China Evangelical Seminary in Taipei, Taiwan. Yet Dr. Lin always said that the old commentaries, before modern times, were more reliable. He said that even modern conservative scholars usually miss the spiritual meaning of the Bible, becoming absorbed in scholarship rather than living Christianity. I couldn’t agree with him more! Speaking of Christians in the “last days,” the Bible speaks of them as

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
       (II Timothy 3:5).

The prophecy also tells us that

“They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Timothy 4:4).

God will punish the false Christians of the “last days” by sending judicial judgment.

“For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (II Thessalonians 2:11).

Concerning the Laodicean Christianity of the “last days,” Christ says,

“I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

But before He spews them out, He sends “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (II Thessalonians 2:11). Part of that delusion is the generally accepted belief in “higher” and “lower” criticism, which removes our text from the Holy Scriptures.

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

While others have forgotten, we should remember that the overwhelming majority of ancient texts have these words. Only two Alexandrian texts do not have them. Why? Alexandria was dominated by Gnosticism, which downplayed demonology, and the importance of the human body. That is why these two Gnostically influenced texts removed the words “prayer and fasting.” The use of these mutilated texts has weakened the churches of the “last days.” The Gnostic-influenced “Bibles” of the last days have removed all references to one of the great means of receiving power in evangelism - fasting and prayer.

I say that textual criticism in all its forms has weakened, rather than strengthened, the churches in our time. Am I right? Read a little Christian history. Is Christianity stronger than it was before textual criticism, or is it weaker? Well, of course, anyone who has studied Christian history knows that it is very much weaker today. So my position is that both higher and lower textual criticism have weakened Christianity – and at best have turned Christians away from spirituality to various forms of Western rationalism. This is why the churches in China are so much stronger than Western churches. They have been protected by Communist persecution from Western rationalism. In China they still know,

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Therefore they have revival in China – while the Western churches lose members and waste away. That is the first thought I would bring out about our text.

II. Second, a lack of recognizing the importance of this text has kept Western
churches from evangelizing their own children.

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

What was the situation? Why did Christ give this advice to His Disciples? Well, it is clearly because they could not help the young man who had been brought to them by his father. The Disciples tried everything, but they could not get this young person saved. His father complained about it to Jesus.

“I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him” (Matthew 17:16).

The Western churches are in the same pitiful condition today. I am afraid that many Asian churches located here in the West are also in this sad state. The Barna poll tells us that the churches in America lose over 88% of their young people. They are simply unable to realize the conversion and Christian growth of the young people raised in their own churches. As a result, nearly 90% of their young people leave the church and go into the world. This is because they were never converted, as the Apostle John points out,

“If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:19).

I do not agree with John MacArthur on the Blood of Christ, but he was right when he said that,

They arise from within the church and depart…The ultimate test of true Christianity is endurance. The departure of people from the…church is their unmasking (John MacArthur, D.D., The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997, p. 1967; note on I John 2:19).

Western churches encourage their “church kids” to make a thoughtless “decision” as little children, and then try nearly every crazy means possible to keep them coming to church when they become young adults! Yet they fail 88% of the time! Their so-called “progressive” schemes do not work, because they are man-made ideas, based on rationalism rather than Scripture. The simple fact is this: the “church kids” were never converted in the first place! Thus, when they are financially able to do so, they sin by leaving the church. The Bible says,

“He that committeth sin is of the devil” (I John 3:8).

They are still children “of the devil.”

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44).

The only way for these “church kids” to become solid church members is by deliverance from Satan. That can only come by receiving a new mind in conversion! 

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

The “renewing” of the mind occurs during real conversion.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
    
 (II Corinthians 5:17).

The “church kids” must have a renewed mind, and become new creatures. This can only occur through real conversion. It is a supernatural work of God. The new birth cannot occur through a mere “decision for Christ.”

III. Third, the importance of this text must be realized and practiced for
young people in the church to be converted.

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Spurgeon said,

What did he mean by that? I believe he meant that in these… cases the ordinary preaching of the Word will not avail, and ordinary prayer will not suffice. There must be an unusual faith, and to get this there must be an unusual degree of prayer; and to get that prayer up to the right point, there must be, in many cases, fasting as well (C. H. Spurgeon, “A Desperate Case – How to Meet It,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1991, volume X, p. 35).

The Apostle James said,

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Spurgeon said,

There must be an unusual degree of prayer; and to get that prayer up to the right point, there must be, in many cases, fasting as well (ibid.).

In one case, the Disciples were highly astonished. They said,

“Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26).

Jesus looked at them and replied,

“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

So, when we fast and pray, we are calling on God to do what we ourselves cannot do. Let us fast and pray, as we are able, for those who are unsaved in the church. We must pray for them to come under real conviction of sin. We must pray for them to feel their sin. We must pray for them to repent, and to have a real encounter with the crucified and risen Saviour, and to be washed clean from their sin by His Blood. Let us fast and pray that they may repent and truly say in their hearts,

Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait,
   Come now, and within me a new heart create;
To those who have sought Thee, Thou never saidst “No,”
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(“Whiter Than Snow” by James Nicholson, 1828-1896).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 17:14-21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Then Jesus Came” (by Homer Rodeheaver, 1880-1955).


THE OUTLINE OF

ONLY BY PRAYER AND FASTING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting”
(Mark 9:29).

I.   First, textual criticism, which removes this text, has weakened
the churches of the last days, II Timothy 3:5; 4:4; 3:1;
II Thessalonians 2:11; Revelation 3:16.

II.  Second, a lack of recognizing the importance of this text has kept
Western churches from evangelizing their own children,
Matthew 17:16; I John 2:19; 3:8; John 8:44; Romans 12:2;
II Corinthians 5:17.

III. Third, the importance of this text must be realized and practiced for
young people in the church to be converted, James 5:16; Mark 10:26, 27.