How Prayer & Fasting Helps Overcome Unbelief

Tuesday, March 09, 2010 Bryan Hudson 2 Comments

Matthew 17:14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”  20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Unbelief is a major obstacle to doing the works of Jesus.

Jesus did what the disciples were unable to do. He successfully ministered to the man’s son. When the disciples asked Him, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” Jesus plainly stated, “Because of your unbelief.”

How could the disciples operate in unbelief if they obviously “believed in” ministering to oppressed people? Clearly, they tried to help the man’s son, but were not successful.

For followers of Christ, unbelief is not a rejection of truth. It is not failing to believe the Bible, or not believing in God. It is not a lack of conviction about what God can do.

Example: Consider an athlete who high jumps who has leaped over seven feet on many occasions. He “believes” that he can jump over seven feet because he has done it many times. What if the athlete stops practicing? What if he loses his discipline and joy of training?  If then he attempts to high jump seven feet, but repeatedly fails to make the height, we have an example of unbelief.

Unbelief is an inability to do what needs to be done because of a lack of faith and corresponding action. As the Bible says, “Faith without works (or corresponding action) is dead, being alone.” (James 2:20)

The high jumper, Jesus’ disciples, and we also, sometimes have the problem of not preparing properly. The work of God relies on grace, the Holy Spirit and faith in God that inspires action. God always honors genuine faith.

What is the solution to the problem of the “unbelief” of believers? Again, Jesus answer was plainly stated, “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

“This kind” is not referring to a special kind of demon, but to “this kind” of faith and relationship with God that is developed through prayer and fasting.

Praying and fasting does not “move God” towards us, it moves us towards God. Nothing in God needs to move or change. Everything in us needs to move or change.

There is no magic about prayer and fasting. It is effective because prayer and fasting helps us clear obstacles to our faith and faith-filled actions. Fasting is more than not eating, it is a season of denying conveniences, choices, appetites, and desires for other things, in order to place full emphasis on God.

Whatever helps us focus on God helps us walk in faith, understand the Bible better, be more completely led by the Spirit and much more. This is like the high jumper who stays in shape and continues to practice—never taking past achievements for granted.

Obviously, fasting is not eating, but it is also an overall focus on drawing closer to God by removing fleshly and environmental obstacles. If a person fasted food, but spent the whole day watching movies or playing video games, this would be a worthless fast from a spiritual perspective.

One of the important functions of fasting is restoring the proper order for living. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 states, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Note the sequence of the words, “…and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless.” The proper order for living is: 1) Spirit, 2) Soul, 3) Body.

However, most of the time people operate in the reverse order of, 1) Body, 2) Soul, 3) Spirit. This lifestyle can only fuel unbelief and not help us develop strong faith and faith-filled actions.

Develop your faith and eliminate your unbelief by strengthening your relationship with God through prayer and fasting.