Once while Jesus was up on the mountain with three of his disciples, being transfigured, the other disciples were down below having a hell of a time trying to deal with a stubborn demon.
When Jesus comes back down the mountain, the desparate father of the afflicted boy asks Jesus if He can help.
There are two things that are striking about this story. First, Jesus says that the root problem is unbelief and essentially rebukes everyone: the father, the disciples, etc. He calls them a “faithless generation.” And this is pretty clearly an allusion to the generation that came out of Egypt, the faithless generation that died in the desert for their lack of faith.
But the parallels go further. Jesus was up on the mountain in glory, just like Moses was up on Sinai seeing the glory of God and receiving the law. Meanwhile, down below the faithless generation was doing its thing. In Exodus, Israel (God’s son, Ex. 4:22), was making a golden calf and having a middle eastern orgy rave, complete with all the latest musical acts straight out of Egypt. In the gospels, the disciples are at the bottom of the mountain fighting a demon in another son and losing. While the externals are somewhat different, in both cases God’s people are losing to sin and the flesh. And in both cases, sin and demons are trying to kill a son. And while we might think Jesus was being a little harsh — it was a demon afterall — Jesus still locates the source of the problem in a lack of faith.
Secondly, later, when the disciples ask Jesus privately why they could not cast out the demon, Jesus frankly tells them that this was a tough demon, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mk. 9:29).
Now, we can clarify several details quickly before turning to the struggle with porn and lust. First, not every sin is necessarily caused or inflicted by a particular demon. Sin is a force, a gravitational pull, a cancer that resides in our own human flesh in Adam, and therefore something that the Bible holds individual people responsible for. At the same time, sin is also frequently pictured as part of Satan’s prowling and devouring. And when sin afflicts people, they are both victims and victimizers. They afflict themselves and they are afflicted. There are inner and outer forces at work. And we are called to struggle against them all.
Second, we should remember that Jesus specifically commissioned the twelve to go around casting out demons (Mk. 3:15). This is not necessarily a gift or power or ministry that God has given to every believer. Every believer has the Holy Spirit and is therefore safe and protected from the attacks of sin and the evil one — no temptation has overtaken us which we are not able to resist. God does not send His faithful children into battles that they cannot win. But the fact that the disciples who were commissioned to cast out demons could not cast out this demon draws the parallel closer to common believers and their struggles. While Jesus and a chosen few are up in glory, we struggle here at the bottom of the mountain with sin, the flesh, and the devil. And Jesus’ says that these kind only come out with much prayer and fasting.
There is of course a mechanistic, superstitious way of hearing Jesus. And some nut jobs will start saying certain prayers and crossing themselves and rubbing a lucky icon while trying to free themselves of the demons of sin. Others will read books and blog articles and try support groups and accountability partners with just as much superstition as the others.
But this is the point: Frequently, these sins of porn and lust seem like they cannot be beaten, they cannot be overcome. These are frequently sins that create habits and addictions that latch on to souls with vehemence. And it is easy to grow weary in the struggle against sin, particularly when it does not appear that we are winning. But if Jesus were to appear before a crowd of people struggling with sexual sin, He would probably call them to faith: “O faithless generation…” Jesus calls us to faith. He calls us to confess our unbelief, and to come to Him, to trust Him, to believe Him. And this means throwing ourselves into the battle. This doesn’t mean putting yourself in foolish situations. If you’ve cancelled your internet, I’m not suggesting you turn it back on. The point here is to resist all temptation with all of your might, trusting that God is able and willing to deliver you.
And so the question becomes: Do you really want to be delivered? Do you really hate that sin? Do you really want to be free? Then pray. Pray like your life depends upon it. Pray like you are desperate. Cry out to God. Beg Him, plead with Him, call upon Him.
Sometimes people do everything except pray. But this is like making all your health care decisions based on what you read on the internet. You need to go to the doctor. You need to talk to the One who can make you well.
Others say they have prayed, but what they mean is that they have offered up two sentence requests having already decided to sin or having already decided that it won’t work. And of course it won’t. Because you don’t really want it. You don’t really believe.
But if you are in a battle in which if the air support does not come soon you will be dead, you will get on that radio and yell, beg, and plead for cover. You will not take no for an answer. You will not stop crying out until you have been answered. And this may sound charismatic, this may sound mystical, but every Christian needs to learn to pray until they have been heard. This doesn’t require a supernatural sign; this doesn’t necessitate a highly charged emotional outpouring — though it may include those elements. But there is praying and then there is praying. And every believer knows their Savior, and every believer knows when they are in His presence.
Fasting is something that many Christians have neglected, but Jesus says that it should be part of our prayers for deliverance and freedom. It is a weapon in our arsenal, and it should be taken up in the fight against sin.
No matter how deep your sin, no matter how addicted you think you are, no matter how enslaved you feel, begin by believing that Jesus can deliver you, and then pray for deliverance. Fast and pray. Fast and pray like you’ll die if you’re not heard. Because it’s true.
Some of these demons can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.
You can find the previous posts in this series here, here, and here.