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"Prayer and Fasting" to Remove Demons [Mt 17:21]
HC: Good evening. Welcome to Open Forum.
CALLER: Good evening. How would you interpret Matthew 17:21
HC: The question is concerning Matthew.17:21, where we read, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." The question is concerning the removal of an evil spirit from a child. We read in verse 14 of a certain man saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and sore vexed [a lunatic that means he is insane], for oftimes he falleth into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to Thy disciples and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to Me. And Jesus rebuked the devil.'" [God now is opening up the curtain and we see that this child was under the power of Satan.] "Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Now the question that has been asked is, what does it mean "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting?" Remember the Biblical rule is that when you see words or phrases or concepts that apparently have nothing to do with salvation, then you are to look for a deeper spiritual meaning. First of all, the casting out of the evil spirit is a picture of someone becoming saved. When we become saved, or before we are saved, we are under the power of Satan. We are being destroyed by Satan, as this child is being destroyed. And under the power of the Gospel, we are set free from the power of Satan. We no longer are under that power.
Incidentally, let's talk about verse 20 as we go along. What does it mean to have faith as a grain of mustard seed? Well, in another place Christ had declared, "The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. Though it is the smallest of the seeds, yet it grows into a great tree," or words to that effect. In other words, God is likening the kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed. It was very very tiny as it began in the world, with the apostles, but it grows until it is found all over the earth. And so effectively He's saying in verse 20, "If you have faith as that that belongs to the kingdom of God [because the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed], ye shall say to this mountain, 'Remove hence to yonder place.'" Now to remove a mountain from one place to another in itself has nothing to do with the kingdom of God or with salvation, just as a mustard seed in itself has nothing to do with salvation. We couldn't understand this word mustard seed until we find the other statement in the Bible that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. And then we can substitute the word kingdom of God, and we're beginning to see the deeper spiritual meaning.
Likewise the word mountain in itself has nothing to do with salvation of any kind. But when we search the Bible we find that frequently God uses the word mountain as a figure of kingdom, as a figure of a kingdom. And Satan rules as a king over his dominion. And if we have the faith of the kingdom of God, that is, if we have saving faith, then we can see the kingdom of Satan moved over. That is, we can see that there can be those who are freed from the dominion of Satan, who are taken out of the dominion of Satan and brought into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we read in Colossians 1:13.
"And nothing shall be impossible to you." In other words, even though it is impossible for you and I in ourselves to assault the kingdom of Satan, so that we are able to free someone from the kingdom of Satan, if we have the faith of the kingdom of God, that is, if we have saving faith, the faith of a grain of mustard seed, then we have the power of God on our side. And through the Word of God, and God working through His Word, He will free those whom we witness to from the mountain or from the kingdom of Satan. That is the truth that God is developing in verse 20.
Now verse 21, we find two words that are emphasized prayer and fasting. Does the word prayer relate immediately to salvation? And indeed it does. Prayer is an integral part of the salvation program. We are to pray for one another. We are to pray for forgiveness of sins. Prayer stands. And as we bring the Gospel, one of the things we do is that we pray. We pray, because God works through our prayers to accomplish the salvation of those who are to be saved.
But now the word fasting, the fact that we would stop eating food, does that have anything to do with salvation? The answer is, no. No, the fact that I don't eat a few meals doesn't have anything in itself to do with salvation. So immediately we sense that the word fasting is like the word grain of mustard seed, or the word mountain. We have to find out what is the deeper spiritual meaning to the word fasting.
Now we find when we study the word fasting that it means that we have to send forth the Gospel, we have to proclaim the Gospel. This is shown to us in Isaiah 58:6. God declares "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke. Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out of thy house, when thou seest the naked that thou cover him?" Every one of these statements has to do with bringing the Gospel. Those who are unsaved are under the bondage of wickedness. They are under the burden of sin. They are oppressed by sin and by Satan. And they are spiritually hungry for the righteousness that they can have in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are spiritually poor, and they are outside of the commonwealth of Israel, and have to be brought into the house of God, which is Christ Himself. Spiritually they are naked, and they have to be covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness. All of these statements are identified with fasting. In other words, God is explaining that to fast means to share the Gospel.
All right. Let's go back here to Matthew 17: "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." We've already seen that this young man, who was under the power of Satan, is a picture of an unsaved person, who is a slave of Satan. And Satan is destroying him, as Satan does. When he became freed of that devil, he is a picture of someone who has become saved. He has been spiritually cured of his illness that is going to send him to hell, the illness of his sin.
And how is that salvation accomplished? By prayer and the presentation of the Gospel, prayer and fasting. Any time we see anyone who is unsaved, there is only one way of attack to accomplish the salvation of that person if indeed it is God's will to save that person. And that is to pray for that person and to try to witness to that person, because God works through His Word to accomplish that salvation, and He works through our prayers, to accomplish that salvation, if it indeed is God's plan to save that person. And this is the beautiful, beautiful truth that the Lord is developing here in Matthew 17.
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