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PRAYER AND FASTING FOR
If you are reading this sermon, or watching it on our website, or on YouTube, I pray that you will not turn me off when I give my view of the reliability of the last two words of the text, “and fasting.” Although I am far from infallible, I do feel very strongly that those two words should be retained. One reason is because the verse doesn’t make sense without them. The Disciples had obviously prayed when they cast out demons on previous occasions. So something had to be added after prayer – and there it is in most of the ancient manuscripts, “and fasting.” They had previously prayed when they cast out weaker demons. But now they were confronted by a stronger one that would not yield to prayer alone. So Jesus said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). And now I will give you a second reason why those two words should be retained. This I believe with all my heart and mind! Please don’t turn me off!
My wife and I climbed Mount Sinai several years ago. When we came down the mountain, we were given a tour of St. Catherine’s Monastery. It is located near the foot of Mt. Sinai. It has a dark and spooky Eastern Orthodox church building, built in the 6th century. A pile of human skulls over six feet high is in one corner – the skulls of the various monks who have lived there over the centuries. The full skeleton of one monk is chained to the front door. In the dimly lit sanctuary, candles flicker, and ostrich eggs hang from the ceiling. It looks like a Satanic place you might see on TV in a video of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” In one corner of this dark and spooky building is a shelf with a note on it, written in several languages. The English version of the note says that this was where the Sinaiticus manuscript of the New Testament was kept, “until Tischendorf stole it and sold it to the British.” It is on the basis of this hand-copied manuscript, stolen from that dark and obviously Satanic place, that the words “and fasting” did not appear. Then that manuscript was purchased by the British. My wife and I saw it, on another trip, in the British Museum in London. It was there that two liberal Church of England clergymen, Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton Hort (1828-1892) took Tischendorf’s Sinaiticus manuscript and used it as the authority for the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament (1881). Virtually all the changes in it were based on the manuscript from St. Catherine’s Monastery. All of the modern translations are from the Westcott and Hort Greek text. So, when you read a modern translation, you are reading that hand-written copy which Tischendorf took from St. Catherine’s dark and demonic monastery. I have become convinced that some ancient monk, influenced by Gnosticism, removed the words “and fasting” when he hand-copied the Sinaiticus manuscript. Furthermore, I believe that Satan protected this manuscript until modern times – and then released it to poison all of our translations in this end-time apostasy. I believe what evangelicals read in the modern translations today is really from “Satan’s Bible.”
Make no mistake about this! Satan wanted the words “and fasting” removed. Why? Simple! Satan wanted those two words removed because “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting”!!! Simple! Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The devil is always waiting to confuse and muddle us. He wants to destroy God’s work” (Spiritual Blessing, Kingsway Publications, 1999, p. 158).
Did you ever wonder why there has been no national revival in America since 1859? Stop wondering! Christian people stopped fasting after the Westcott and Hort Bible became popular. That’s one of the main reasons there has been no revival in our country for 154 years! Before that there were God-sent revivals about every ten years! Think about it. All of the preachers in the 18th century, in the First Great Awakening, fasted and prayed, based on the words, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Commenting on the parallel passage in Matthew, the great evangelist John Wesley said this – “What a testimony is here of the efficacy [effectiveness] of fasting, when added to fervent prayer!” (John Wesley, M.A., Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 edition, volume I, note on Matthew 17:21). George Whitefield, Howell Harris, Jonathan Edwards, and all the preachers of that great revival completely agreed with John Wesley that fasting added to prayer is extremely important! But they didn’t have Westcott and Hort’s mutilated Bible back then!
Then think of the Second Great Awakening. What about the great preachers then? Timothy Dwight fasted. Asahel Nettleton fasted. Robert Murray M’Cheyne fasted. John Angell James fasted. They had great revivals, and they fasted and prayed for them. But they didn’t have Westcott and Hort’s mutilated Bible back then!
And, as I said, the Third Great Awakening in 1857-59 came before they had the Devil’s Bible. Fasting was so common back then that President Abraham Lincoln called for a national day of fasting and prayer during the Civil War. And the revival of 1859 came in a prayer meeting, where men who were fasting came together to pray. Spurgeon was the greatest preacher of the Third Great Awakening. Spurgeon fasted often, and preached sermons about fasting and prayer! Even the Welsh Revival of 1905 came before the preachers in Wales stopped using the good, old King James Bible. The people of Wales were noted for prayer and fasting. That was also true of the revival on the Island of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland, in 1949, where two old blind ladies fasted and prayed until God sent revival!
What about China? All of the old Christian patriarchs of China fasted and prayed. They were taught to do so by the great pioneer missionary James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905). The powerful evangelist John Sung (1901-1944) saw mighty revival in China shortly before the Communists took over. Dr. Sung prayed and fasted constantly. The Chinese patriarch Wang Mingdao (1900-1991) spent twenty-two years in prison for preaching the Gospel. He too constantly fasted and prayed. Dr. James Hudson Taylor III, the great-grandson of Hudson Taylor, said of Wang Mingdao, “No Chinese Christian leader of the twentieth century has more clearly articulated the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing, Regnery Publishing Company, 2006 edition, p. 56). Allen Yuan (1914-2005) also spent over 20 years in prison for preaching the Gospel. He constantly fasted and prayed. Samuel Lamb (1924-2013), Moses Xie (1918-2011) and others served the Lord in prison by fasting and prayer. God heard them and kept Christianity alive during the horrors of the “Cultural Revolution” in China. Then,in the 1980s, God poured forth a tsunami of revival which continues to this day! The American Bible Society estimates that there are about 700 conversions every hour, 24 hours a day, in China – about 17,000 Christian conversions every day! The Chinese pastors never saw Westcott and Hort’s mutilated Bible. They still fast and pray on a regular basis, and God answers them. See “The Cross” (click here to order it on Amazon.com), a Chinese-made film of the revival, and you will feel like you have seen the Book of Acts come to life! My old Chinese pastor for 23 years was Dr. Timothy Lin. He always carried an old Chinese Bible he had for more than sixty years. It was not influenced by Westcott and Hort. The words were not removed. Dr. Lin fasted and prayed throughout his ministry. I saw his church literally explode in revival, with hundreds of young people pouring into it in only a few months. Dr. Lin believed in fasting and prayer to obtain God’s blessings. I am sorry to say that those who followed him were often influenced by “Western thinking” and Westcott and Hort’s mutilated Bible.
I know that some people will think I have gone too far in demeaning the modern translations. But my question to them is the same one the Disciples asked Christ, “Why could not we cast him out?” (Mark 9:28). Spurgeon knew about the deletion of “fasting” in this verse, in the Revised Version, when he gave a sermon titled “The Secret of Failure” in 1886 (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume XLII, Pilgrim Publications, 1976 edition, pp. 97-106). But he passed over it and said, “Prayer and fasting have great power...There is a kind of devil [demon] that will not go out by ordinary prayer, there must be added to that pleading something by which our zeal shall be yet further increased: there must be ‘prayer and fasting’.” (ibid., p. 105).
Spurgeon also applied the Disciples’ question “Why could not we cast him out?” to the weakened condition of the churches. Spurgeon said,
“Why could not we cast him out?” Let the church of God... say, ‘Why do not these thousands of people come to hear the gospel when we preach?’ There is all this harlotry in our streets: why has not the church of God swept that away? The vilest sin is rampant – sin of which we dare not speak, it is so vile; how is it that we cannot cast this out?...Why could we not cast these vile forces out?...and many who, after years of preaching, remain just the same as ever. What devil [demon] is this that has got into them? Why cannot we cast him out? (ibid., p. 101).
Spurgeon's answer was the same as Christ's, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
Dr. Lloyd-Jones also spoke on that question, “Why could not we cast him out?” and Christ’s answer, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” The “Doctor” said we have to diagnose what “this kind” is today. He said,
What is “this kind”? What is the problem that is confronting us today? I feel increasingly, that as we examine this truly, we shall see that the kind of problem facing us is altogether deeper and more desperate than that which has confronted the Christian church for many a long century (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1997, p. 15).
He said that the methods of the past do not seem to have any effect on “this kind” today. Then he said that there are several “new methods” that don’t work. He said that new translations do not touch the problem. He said that gospel tracts and mass evangelistic crusades are not bringing the lost into our churches. He said, “You must realize that you are confronted by something that is too deep for your methods” (ibid., p. 19).
I believe that he was right about all of this. Lost people do not see their need for the churches today. They do not feel that they are sinful and need to be forgiven. What is it that the church can provide that capitalizes on a “felt need” in our modern situation? After many years of thinking about this subject, I have become convinced that loneliness is the basic “felt need” that is not being met in our churches. Dr. William Glasser, a prominent psychiatrist, made this surprising statement in his book The Identity Society,
All symptoms, whether psychological or psychosomatic, and all aggressive, irrational behavior are products of loneliness and are companions to the lonely, suffering people who struggle for identity, but do not succeed (quoted in J. Oswald Sanders, D.D., Facing Loneliness, Discovery House Publications, 1990 edition, p. 46).
Depression, various addictions, hopelessness – “all symptoms...and all aggressive, irrational behavior are products of loneliness.” I think Dr. Glasser was exactly right! The “big sins” in our society “all” have their roots in loneliness! “This kind” is “loneliness” in our culture today. If we do not provide relief from loneliness, we cannot expect many lost people to be interested in coming into our churches!
Dr. Timothy Lin, my long-time pastor at the Chinese Baptist church, knew this! He was an older man, from the mainland of China, but he was a man who spent a lot of time fasting and praying. And God showed him the importance of curing loneliness as means of bringing in lost young people. He often said, “We have to cure youth’s loneliness. We have to make the church their second home.” I completely agree with him! In the 1960s that church did what Dr. Lin said, and hundreds of young people came out of the world and into the church. And the church experienced God-sent revival. Some people tend to forget that all of those things happened under Dr. Lin’s ministry, not later!
But I have to stop here and give a word of caution. We must not think that prayer and fasting will automatically produce revival – or many conversions. We must be very careful not to think of God as a “power” we can manipulate. That’s what Simon the Magician thought when he said, “Give me also this power” (Acts 8:19). If we think of God as an impersonal “power” we can manipulate and “use” through prayer and fasting, we will move dangerously close to “white magic.” In “black magic” the magician uses certain words to control and manipulate evil spirits. In “white magic” the magician uses certain incantations or prayers to control and manipulate so-called “good spirits” – even their god, whom they may call the “Holy Spirit.” At the risk of being misunderstood, I am convinced that Benny Hinn, and several other “charismatic” leaders are actually dabbling in “white magic.”
The true Spirit of God is a person. He cannot be “brought down” and “used” by saying certain words – not even by fasting and prayer. He is a person, not an impersonal “power.” Much of what is called “revival” today is really demonic, the product of “white magic.”
So, when we pray and fast for God to draw young people into our church, we must be careful to realize that He is a holy God. He is a real person, who should be treated with great respect, and reverence. In another sermon, Spurgeon said,
I am not sure whether we have not lost a great blessing in the Christian church by giving up fasting...There is a treatise by an old Puritan, called, “The Soul-fattening Institution of Fasting,” and he gives his own experience that during a fast he has felt more intense eagerness of soul in prayer time than he had ever done at any other time (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume X, Pilgrim Publications, 1991 edition, p. 35).
Next Saturday we will have another fast day, until 5:00 PM, when we will come here to church for a meal and more prayer. We will be praying for God to draw people into the church through their “felt need” of loneliness. But that won’t keep most of them here long unless they are convicted of sin and converted to Christ. So pray for drawings, and also for real conversions.
If you are not yet converted, I tell you that Jesus loves you. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin. His Blood was poured out on that Cross to cleanse us from all sin. He rose bodily from the dead to give you life. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Focus your heart and mind on Jesus alone - bleeding and dying on the Cross to save you! Trust Him wholeheartedly. He will save you from sin, death, and Hell! Amen.
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Mark 9:23-29.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Old-Time Power” (by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).