"Our lives must
be as holy as our prayers." -Andrew
(The Thirteenth lesson
Christ in the School of Prayer by
Prayer and Fasting;
Or, The Cure of Unbelief
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,
nothing shall be impossible to you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but
by prayer and fasting.' "
asked the Master for the cause of their failure.
When the disciples saw Jesus cast the evil
spirit out of the epileptic whom they could not cure, they asked the
Master for the cause of their failure.
He had given them power and authority over all devils, and to cure all
diseases. They had often exercised that power, and joyfully told
how the devils were subject to them. And yet now, while He was on
the Mount, they had utterly failed.
That there had been nothing in the will of
God or in the nature of the case to render deliverance impossible, had
been proved: at Christ's bidding the evil spirit had gone out.
From their expression, "Why could we not?", it is evident that
they had wished and sought to do so; they had probably used the Master's
name, and called upon the evil spirit to go out. Their efforts had
been vain, and in presence of the multitude, they had been put to
shame. Why could we not?
power was in Christ, to be received, and held, and used by faith alone,
living faith in Himself.
Christ's answer was direct and plain:
"Because of your unbelief."
The cause of His success and their failure, was not owing to His having
a special power to which they had no access. No; the reason was
not far to seek. He had so often taught them that there is one
power, that of faith, to which, in the kingdom of darkness, as in the
kingdom of God, everything must bow; in the spiritual world failure has
but one cause, the want of faith.
Faith is the one condition on which all
Divine power can enter into man and work through him.
It is the susceptibility of the unseen: man's will yielded up to, and
moulded by, the will of God. The power they had received to cast
out devils, they did not hold in themselves as a permanent gift or
possession; the power was in Christ, to be received, and held, and used
by faith alone, living faith in Himself.
kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer."
Had they been full of faith in Him as Lord and Conqueror in the
spirit-world, had they been full of faith in
Him as having given them authority to cast out in His name, this
faith would have given them the victory. "Because of your
unbelief," was, for all time, the Master's explanation and reproof
of impotence and failure in His Church.
But such want of faith must have a cause
too. Well might the disciples have
asked: And why could we not believe? Our faith has cast out devils
before this: why have we now failed in believing? The Master
proceeds to tell them ere they ask: "This kind goeth not out but by
fasting and prayer."
needs a life of prayer in which to grow and keep strong...prayer needs
fasting for its full and perfect development.
As faith is the simplest, so it is the
highest exercise of the spiritual life, where our spirit yields itself
in perfect receptivity to God's Spirit and so is strengthened to its
highest activity. This faith depends
entirely upon the state of the spiritual life; only when this is strong
and in full health, when the Spirit of God has full sway in our life, is
there the power of faith to do its mighty deeds. And therefore
Jesus adds: "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by fasting and
The faith that can overcome such stubborn
resistance as you have just seen in this evil spirit, Jesus tells them,
is not possible except to men living in very close fellowship with God, and
in very special separation from the world in prayer and fasting.
And so He teaches us two lessons in regard to prayer of deep
importance. The one, that faith needs a life of prayer in which to
grow and keep strong. The other, that prayer needs fasting for its
full and perfect development.
is nothing needs so much to grow as our faith.
Faith needs a life of prayer for its full
growth. In all the different parts of
the spiritual life, there is such close union, such unceasing action and
re-action, that each may be both cause and effect. Thus it is with
faith. There can be no true prayer without faith; some measure of
faith must precede prayer. And yet prayer is also the way to more
faith; there can be no higher degrees of faith except through much
This is the lesson Jesus teaches here. There is nothing needs so
much to grow as our faith. Your faith
groweth exceedingly, is said of one Church. When Jesus spoke the
words, "According to your faith be it unto you," He announced
the law of the kingdom, which tells us that all have not equal degrees
of faith, that the same person has not always the same degree, and that
the measure of faith must always determine the measure of power and of
is as we take His word from the Blessed Book, and bring it to Himself,
asking him to speak it to us with His living loving voice, that the
power will come fully to believe and receive the word as God's own word
If we want to know where and how our faith
is to grow, the Master points us to the throne of God.
It is in prayer, in the exercise of the faith I have, in fellowship with
the living God, that faith can increase. Faith can only live by
feeding on what is Divine, on God Himself.
It is in the adoring worship of God, the waiting on Him and for Him, the
deep silence of soul that yields itself for God to reveal Himself, that
the capacity for knowing and trusting God will be developed.
It is as we take His word from the Blessed Book, and bring it to
Himself, asking him to speak it to us with His living loving voice, that
the power will come fully to believe and receive the word as God's own
word to us.
Christians cannot understand what is meant by the much prayer they
sometimes hear spoken of: they can form no conception, nor do they feel
the need, of spending hours with God.
It is in prayer, in living contact with God
in living faith, that faith, the power to trust God, and in that trust,
to accept everything He says, to accept every possibility He has offered
to our faith will become strong in us.
Many Christians cannot understand what is meant by the much prayer they
sometimes hear spoken of: they can form no conception, nor do they feel
the need, of spending hours with God. But what the Master says,
the experience of His people has confirmed: men of strong faith are men
of much prayer.
This just brings us back again to the lesson we learned when Jesus,
before telling us to believe that we receive what we ask, first said,
"Have faith in God." It is
God, the living God, into whom our faith must strike its roots deep and
broad; then it will be strong to remove mountains and cast out
devils. If ye have faith, nothing shall be impossible to
is in the dying to self which much prayer implies, in closer union to
Jesus, that the spirit of faith will come in power.
Oh! If we do but give ourselves up to the work God has for us in
the world, coming into contact with the mountains and the devils there
are to be cast away and cast out, we should
soon comprehend the need there is of much faith, and of much prayer, as
the soil in which alone faith can be cultivated. Christ Jesus is
our life, the life of our faith too. It is His life in us that
makes us strong, and makes us simple to believe. It is in the
dying to self which much prayer implies, in closer union to Jesus, that
the spirit of faith will come in power. Faith needs prayer
for its full growth.
And prayer needs fasting for its
full growth: this is the second lesson.
Prayer is the one hand with which we grasp the invisible; fasting, the
other, with which we let loose and cast away the visible. In
nothing is man more closely connected with the world of sense than in
his need of food, and his enjoyment of it. It was the fruit, good
for food, with which man was tempted and fell in Paradise. It was
with bread to be made of stones that Jesus, when an hungered, was
tempted in the wilderness, and in fasting that He triumphed.
is only in a life of moderation and temperance and self-denial that
there will be the heart or the strength to pray much.
The body has been redeemed to be a temple
of the Holy Spirit; it is in body as well as spirit, it is very
specially, Scripture says, in eating and drinking, we are to glorify
God. It is to be feared that there
are many Christians to whom this eating to the glory of God has not yet
become a spiritual reality. And the first thought suggested by
Jesus words in regard to fasting and prayer, is, that it is only in a
life of moderation and temperance and self-denial that there will be the
heart or the strength to pray much.
But then there is also its more literal meaning. Sorrow and
anxiety cannot eat: joy celebrates its feasts with eating and
drinking. There may come times of
intense desire, when it is strongly felt how the body, with its
appetites, lawful though they be, still hinder the spirit in its battle
with the powers of darkness, and the need is felt of keeping it
helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are
ready to sacrifice anything...
We are creatures of the senses: our mind is helped by what comes to us
embodied in concrete form; fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to
confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, to
sacrifice ourselves, to attain what we seek for the kingdom of
God. And He who accepted the fasting and sacrifice of the Son,
knows to value and accept and reward with spiritual power the soul that
is thus ready to give up all for Christ and His kingdom.
And then follows a still wider
application. Prayer is the reaching out after God and the unseen;
fasting, the letting go of all that is of the seen and temporal. While
ordinary Christians imagine that all that is not positively forbidden
and sinful is lawful to them, and seek to retain as much as possible of
this world, with its property, its literature, its enjoyments, the truly
consecrated soul is as the soldier who carries only what he needs for
we not give up all to follow Jesus in the path He opens to us here...
Laying aside every weight, as well as the
easily besetting sin, afraid of entangling himself with the affairs of
this life, he seeks to lead a Nazarite
life, as one specially set apart for the Lord and His service.
Without such voluntary separation, even from what is lawful, no one will
attain power in prayer: this kind goeth not out but by fasting and
Disciples of Jesus! Who have asked
the Master to teach you to pray, come now and accept His lessons.
He tells you that prayer is the path to faith, strong faith, that can
cast out devils. He tells you: "If ye have faith, nothing
shall be impossible to you;" let this glorious promise encourage
you to pray much. Is the prize not worth the price? Shall we
not give up all to follow Jesus in the path He opens to us here; shall
we not, if need be, fast? Shall we not do anything that neither
the body nor the world around hinder us in our great life-work, having
communion with our God in prayer, that we may become men of faith, whom
He can use in His work of saving the world.
US TO PRAY.
us, Blessed Lord, that there is a place where faith can be learned and
gained, even in...prayer and fasting...
O Lord Jesus! How continually Thou hast to reprove us for our
unbelief! How strange it must appear
to Thee, this terrible incapacity of trusting our Father and His
promises. Lord! Let Thy reproof, with its searching,
"Because of your unbelief," sink into the very depths of our
hearts, and reveal to us how much of the sin and suffering around us is
our blame. And then teach us, Blessed Lord, that there is a place
where faith can be learned and gained, even in the prayer and fasting
that brings into living and abiding fellowship with Thyself and the
O Saviour! Thou Thyself art the Author and the Perfecter of our
faith; teach us what it is to let Thee live in us by Thy Holy
Spirit. Lord! Our efforts and
prayers for grace to believe have been so unavailing.
us how, in fasting and prayer, we may grow up to the faith to which
nothing shall be impossible.
We know why it was: we sought for strength
in ourselves to be given from Thee.
Holy Jesus! Do at length teach us the mystery of Thy life in us,
and how Thou, by Thy Spirit, dost undertake to live in us the life of
faith, to see to it that our faith shall not fail.
O let us see that our faith will just be a part of that wonderful
prayer-life which Thou givest in them who expect their training for the
ministry of intercession, not in word and
thought only, but in the Holy Unction Thou givest, the inflowing of the
Spirit of Thine own life. And teach us how, in fasting and prayer,
we may grow up to the faith to which nothing shall be impossible.
resolved to give himself to fasting, sometimes for more than thirty
the time when Blumhardt was passing through his terrible conflict with
the evil spirits in those who were possessed, and
seeking to cast them out by prayer, he often wondered what it was that
hindered the answer.
day a friend, to whom he had spoken of his trouble, directed his
attention to our Lord's words about fasting.
Blumhardt resolved to give himself to fasting, sometimes for more than
thirty hours. From reflection and experience he gained the
conviction that it is of more importance than is generally
is before God...and inasmuch as in a high degree it strengthens the
intensity and power of the prayer...becomes the unceasing practical
expression of a prayer without words...
says, "Inasmuch as the fasting is before God, a practical proof
that the thing we ask is to us a matter of true and pressing interest,
and inasmuch as in a high degree it strengthens the intensity and power
of the prayer, and becomes the unceasing
practical expression of a prayer without words, I could believe that it
would not be without efficacy, especially as the Master's words had
reference to a case like the present.
tried it, without telling any one, and in truth the later conflict was
extraordinarily lightened by it. I
could speak with much greater restfulness and decision. I did not
require to be so long present with the sick one; and I felt that I could
influence without being present."
& Fasting Pages
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