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PRAYER AND FASTING IN THE AGE OF OBAMA

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 12, 2015

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28, 29).


The story is simple. Jesus had been up on a mountain. When He came down He saw a great crowd gathered around the Disciples. Jesus asked them what was happening. A man stepped out of the crowd and told Jesus that his son was demon possessed. He said the demon made his son have raging fits. He said that he asked the Disciples to cast out the demon, but they couldn’t do it. Jesus told the man to bring his son to Him. Jesus rebuked the demon and said, “Come out of him, and enter no more into him.” The demon screamed and came out of the boy. Jesus took the boy by the hand and lifted him up, and he was healed. A few minutes later Jesus went into a house. The Disciples came to Him and said, “Why could not we cast him out?” (Mark 9:28).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “They had tried their utmost, but they had failed. They had succeeded in many other cases. Here they had failed altogether. And yet in a moment and with extreme ease our Lord [Jesus Christ] just spoke a word and the boy was healed. ‘Why could we not cast him out?’ they said, and [Christ] answered and said, ‘This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting’” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1994 edition, p. 9; comment on Mark 9:28, 29).

This account of the demon that couldn’t be cast out by the Disciples is very important. It was so important that the Holy Spirit recorded it three times in the New Testament – in Matthew, in Mark, and again in Luke. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said it was very important for us today. I fully agree with him. But before I apply the meaning of this story to our church, I must deal with the Bible critics who removed the words “and fasting” in all the modern translations.

So, before I go into the message, I want to talk to you about the last two words in verse 29 – “and fasting.” The Scofield center note “u” says, “The two best MSS [manuscripts] omit ‘and fasting.’” This means that even the very conservative Scofield Study Bible was influenced by the destructive Bible criticism of the late 19th century. Why are the two old manuscripts that leave out fasting “the best manuscripts”? The main manuscript the critics used was the Sinaiticus manuscript. The theory of the critics is that the oldest is always the best. But how can we be sure of that theory?

My wife and I were in St. Catherine’s Monastery, at the foot of Mount Sinai several years ago. We saw where the manuscript was found – in a pile of rubble in this ancient monastery. At the door of the monastery is a huge pile of human skulls. These are the skulls of monks who have lived there over the centuries. Inside is one of the most dark and Satanic-feeling church sanctuaries I have ever seen. Dozens of ostrich eggs hang from the ceiling. The place is lit by moldering candles. It looks like a place you would see in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”! I would not want to spend the night in that awful place! It is from this dark and gloomy place that Tischendorf found that old manuscript of the Gospels. Later my wife and I saw the actual manuscript in the British Museum in London.

I am convinced that the ancient monks in that monastery were influenced by Gnosticism. Of course the Gnostics would not want to emphasize fasting. That’s why those Gnostic-influenced monks left the word “fasting” out when they copied the Gospel of Mark by hand.

Then there is another reason I think the word “fasting” was written there by Mark himself. You see, the sentence doesn’t make sense if you leave out the word “fasting.” The NIV, like all modern translations, has it, “this kind can come out only by prayer.” Just use your mind. Don’t you know that the Disciples had prayed? Of course they had prayed! But “this kind” needed something more than prayer. Isn’t that obvious? As C. S. Lewis pointed out in one of his essays, these Bible critics should have studied English literature. If they had studied composition they would have realized something was missing. “This kind can come out only by prayer”? Absurd! Of course they had prayed. The sentence makes no sense unless it says, “this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”

Then there is a third reason. Throughout the long history of Christianity Christians have believed that there was a need to fast as well as pray, when certain Satanic forces stopped the work of God. All the great preachers in the revivals of the past knew there were times when they had to fast. But today they are led away from fasting by the omission of those words, “prayer and fasting.” Did you know that John Wesley fasted two or more times a week during the First Great Awakening? Did you know that Jonathan Edwards fasted for three days before he preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”? This sermon led to a remarkable revival in his church, which spread throughout New England – and then to England itself. Would that revival have come if Edwards had prayed without fasting? This much is certain – God did send the revival when he fasted as well as prayed! Is the absence of fasting in our churches today one of the reasons there is no revival? This much is sure – there is very little if any revival today, at the same time there is very little if any fasting! That is certain!

Then there is a fourth reason to keep the words “and fasting.” Luther spoke of the “analogy” of Scripture. He meant that we should look at other similar Scriptures to see what they say, when we are interpreting a passage. What is the most well-known passage in the Bible about fasting? Surely a Bible student should know that it is in Isaiah 58:6.

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands [chains] of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and...break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

Jesus knew Isaiah very well. He spoke from Isaiah 61:1,2 when He preached in the synagogue of Nazareth. Surely Jesus was at the very least alluding to Isaiah 58:6 when He said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands [chains] of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and...break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

As with Isaiah, Jesus was telling the Disciples that prayer and fasting could “let the oppressed go free” – and break every yoke of Satan! That is the “analogy” of Scripture! That is letting the Bible itself be the best commentary on our text. I feel sure that Luther would have agreed with me on this.

A fifth reason for accepting “and fasting” comes from the fact that those who cast out demons have always taught that fasting is helpful in certain cases. The venerable John Wesley, speaking of the parallel passage in Matthew 17:21, said, “This kind of devils goeth not out but by prayer and fasting – what a testimony is here of the efficacy of fasting, when added to fervent prayer. Some kinds of devils the apostles had cast out before this without fasting” but this kind of devils goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (John Wesley, M.A., Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983, volume I; note on Matthew 17:21).

John Wesley (1703-1791) knew a great deal about deliverance from demons in his long ministry as the founder of Wesleyan Methodism.

Dr. Thomas Hale was a medical missionary to Thailand. Having confronted the demonic many times on the mission field, Dr. Hale, in his commentary, advocated fasting. Commenting on Mark 9:29, Dr. Hale said, “In some situations it is necessary to fast in order to receive our request from God...When, by fasting, we show God that we are serious...He will respond to our prayers by giving us a greater measure of power and wisdom and spiritual blessing.” After encountering the demonic on the mission field, Dr. Hale said we should keep “and fasting” in the text. (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997, p. 265; note on Mark 9:29).

Now I give you the sixth and last reason to keep “and fasting.” There are only two manuscripts that leave it out, but there are literally hundreds of manuscripts, very ancient manuscripts, that have it in. The critics decided to go by the two that left it out and forgot all about the hundreds of very ancient manuscripts that have it in. May God help us! I don’t think we’re ever going to have revival unless we get back to fasting along with prayer!

There, I have given you six reasons for rejecting the modern translations on this verse! I never preach from them. I don’t trust them. That’s why I only preach from the King James Bible. That’s why I want you to memorize verses from the King James Bible, and always do your daily Bible reading only from the King James. It will bless you and you can trust it!

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

Now, for the rest of this sermon I am going to answer two questions:

(1)  What is “this kind”?
(2)  How shall we overcome “this kind”?

I am not going to waste time trying to prove to you that demons and Satan exist. If you are a soul-winner you already know, by experience, the reality of demons. So I am forging ahead without trying to persuade you of their existence.

“This kind” refers to the demons that are stopping us, that we don’t seem to be able to overcome by the usual methods. The Bible teaches that demons blind “the minds of them which believe not” (II Corinthians 4:4). And that is true of every person in the world before conversion. We’ve been dealing with “that” kind for a long time. And we have often seen “that” kind overcome by Christ in answer to our prayers.

We also know “that” kind plucks the word out of the unbeliever’s heart – “then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts” (Luke 8:12). And we have often seen “that” kind overcome by Christ in answer to our prayers.

The Devil has sent demons to do those two things since the beginning of time. He blinded the minds of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He plucked the word out of their hearts in that early time.

We can more or less say those were the Devil’s two main ways of enslaving people in America and the West until modern times. Until modern times people in general believed in God. People in general believed the Bible was the Word of God. Their minds were blinded. The word was plucked from their hearts. But they still believed, in a general way, in God and the Bible. We can speak of them as “pre-modern” men and women. As pre-moderns they did not come to Christianity with a critical mindset. They might not trust Christ – but they did not criticize by saying things like “there is no God,” or “God is dead” – and so forth. So all you had to do with pre-modern people was to preach the Gospel and pray for them. It was comparatively easy.

But then we entered the “modern” period. This period could technically be traced to the so-called Enlightenment, which began in the late 17th century and continued with Voltaire (1694-1778). In that period men began to become materialists and critical of God and the Bible. But that critical mindset didn’t filter down to the common man until the 19th century. The “modern mindset” had to have everything “proved” by the so-called “scientific method.” It was critical of everything spiritual. In his sermon on John 3:16 the famous evangelist Billy Graham said, “You can’t put God in a test tube.” He was preaching to “modern” man. But it is generally agreed that the “modern” period died out with the Hippie generation.

Today we live in what philosophers call the “post-modern” period – the period after modernism. The post-modern mind of young people today is amoral. There are no morals. It has a few “politically correct” ideas, but no real moral base. “That’s right for you, but not for me.” There are no moral standards of right and wrong. “If it feels right it is right” is the post-modern motto. Instead of saying “there is no God” like the moderns said – they say “If God is real to you, fine – but let me have my own gods.” In other words, there is no standard. Whatever works for you is good – for you.

That’s “this kind” – that’s what young people think today – in those unclear, changing, unsure, “what’s right for you” thoughts. That is “this kind.” That’s the demons we are fighting against now! I hear older people say, and correctly so, that ever since Obama there’s a darkness. Everything feels different. Nothing is certain or stable. Yes, you could call it the “Obama” spirit, the post-modern demon that is trashing everything old – and giving nothing to replace it. Is it affecting our churches? Oh, yes! The Southern Baptists lost 2,000 churches last year! Unheard of! Never anything like it! Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “We have to understand that we are fighting for our lives against some tremendous power. We are up against a powerful adversary” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, part 2, p. 148).

“This kind” is too strong for us. It cannot be overcome by prayer alone. No – we must have “prayer and fasting” or all of our evangelistic efforts will fail. Therefore I am asking you to fast and pray next Saturday. Don’t fast if you have any medical problems. Check with a doctor if you have any doubts medically. If you do fast with us, be sure to drink plenty of water, about one glass every hour or so. And we will end the fast on Saturday at 5:30 PM with a meal here at church. “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” Be sure you pray several times Saturday for God to bring in the lost and keep them here, and draw them to Christ for salvation through His Blood and righteousness. Heavenly Father, may it be so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Mark 9:14-29.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788;
to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me).