One can only imagine what Peter, James and John felt as they witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus. “His clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus” (Mark 9:3-4). In the afterglow of that supernatural experience, the three disciples and Jesus came down from the mountain to find the other nine disciples surrounded by a crowd and arguing with the teachers of the law. (See Mark 9:14-29)
The issue? A father had sought out Jesus because the father’s son was possessed by a demon. The boy would have violent seizures and sometimes the demon caused the boy to throw himself into fire and water (Mark 9:22). When Jesus was not available, the disciples attempted an exorcism. Even though Jesus had previously given the disciples authority to cast out demons, and they had successfully done so, the disciples could not cast the demon from this man’s son (Mark 6:7-13). In this case, they were spiritually ineffective.
Why? After commenting about an unbelieving generation, Jesus cast out the demon. Later, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why couldn’t we drive it out” (Mark 9:28)? Jesus’ response provides huge insight that we must not ignore if we desire to be effective in the spiritual war that rages in the unseen realm and manifests itself in the world in which we live (Eph. 6:12). In Matthew 17:20, a parallel account of this story, we see that Jesus pointed out the critical prerequisite of faith.
In addition, Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer [and fasting*]” (Mark 9:20).
Rather than reading “by nothing but prayer” (NKJV/HCS), some translation read “only by prayer” or “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer (ESV).”
In other words, the disciples lacked spiritual effectiveness because more prayer and fasting was needed. Authority wasn’t the problem. These guys belonged to Jesus and they had heard lots of powerful teaching and preaching. Even with all of that, they were spiritually ineffective in this particular battle.
What is the point? Peter, James and John witnessed the glory of the transfigured Christ. For a moment, they glimpsed the supernatural power and magnificence of the Lord. Then they came down from the mountaintop only to immediately witness an example of the spiritual warfare that constantly rages. They went from the glory of the Lord to the gory brokenness of the world. They learned that prayer is the way to witness the glory of God in the here and now.
They were called back to ministry and were taught a powerful lesson about ministry success. Does prayer matter in the spiritual battle? Does prayer matter for your family? Does prayer matter for your church? Jesus emphatically said yes!
Prayer and fasting are essential to spiritual effectiveness.
Is it possible that a lack of prayer and fasting in your life is leaving you spiritually ineffective and defeated by the enemy?