Prayer and victory
At one point during His ministry, Jesus had a mission for his disciples.
Mark 6:7,12-13 He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits…So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they were driving out many demons, anointing many sick people with oil, and healing.
Sometime after they returned, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray. While there, Jesus was transfigured and the three with Him saw him speaking with Moses and Elijah. However, another scene was unfolding with the nine disciples who were left down below.
Mark 9:14-18 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. All of a sudden, when the whole crowd saw Him, they were amazed and ran to greet Him. Then He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?”
Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”
Jesus then casts out the demon and heals the child. However, consider what has to be going through the minds of the nine disciples…What did I do wrong?...Why is this time any different from before, when Jesus sent us out two by two?...Did I approach the demon correctly?...Did I say the right thing? These guys were dumb-founded while the crowd around them rejoiced at the miracle healing that Jesus had performed.
In the ancient world, magicians would seek to hit the right combination of sayings, motions, and use of instruments to cast out demons. It was all considered a matter of technique – and that’s likely what the nine disciples were arguing with the scribes about before Jesus arrived. Their inability to cast out the demon bothered them so much that they had to find out why it didn’t happen.
Mark 9:28-29 After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Jesus’ answer is both unexpected and instructive. While the disciples were looking for something that they could do so they could cast out the demon, Jesus instead points them to how they can rely on the One who truly is casting out the demon. Everything Jesus has demonstrated and taught them about prayer was God-focused, not self-focused. The disciples were unable to have victory in this situation because they were looking to themselves for power, rather than looking to God.
I find this very instructive…there have been times when, by God’s grace and power, I’ve escaped from habitual sin or a sin-soaked situation. However, when that same problem arises later, my first thought is something along the lines of “I’ve got this. I beat this before, I can do it again.” Unfortunately, that’s when I am most prone to failure. Previous results do not guarantee future victories. That is because victory only happens when I am trusting in God’s strength and not my own.
Prayer is the way we stay connected to God. God-focused praying ensures that we have the correct perspective on God as well as the situation at hand – so that when the battle is brought to us, we will act in His authority and power. This isn’t just a one-time infusion either, instead each time we step out to do our God-given mission, we need to recognize that our authority and power flow from God.