On Friday, I shared with you the story of God's willingness to heal and the record that shows He never turned a broken man away. I think about this kind of thing quite often, since I'm working in what we might call a "healing profession." There's just kind of an interesting interplay here that I often find myself reflecting on.
Jesus healed everyone and guaranteed His healing to anyone who asked for it. Ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you shall find. He healed every type of infirmity and disease, and He charged His disciples to do the same. Which means...He's given us the ability and the authority to heal. I do not take this lightly.
At the same time, I have to be honest and tell you I'm not sure I've ever healed a man. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never healed a man. I've seen God do it a few times, and I'm always amazed by the work of the Spirit, but I'm keenly aware that it has never been the result of my ability or authority, even God-given.
So what gives?
When I think about this, I think about the disciples having been sent out. They've seen Jesus heal. By His own lips, they've heard Him speak the authority and ability into them to do the same. He's present in their ministry, even if He's not right by their side, and then a man comes to the Teacher and informs Him that the students were unable to cast out this particular demon. They couldn't heal. With all the power and authority of Jesus given to them, they could not bring His healing to this one case.
Jesus takes care of the demon, and the disciples are awestruck. How, they ask, could You do that so easily when we were unable to do it at all, even in Your name? And Jesus answers, "This kind of demon requires prayer and fasting."
He doesn't mean prayer and fasting. I don't think. Because this guy came to Jesus out of nowhere, and the Gospels don't tell us that Jesus was fasting, that He was praying, or that He took the time to do either. It would be rather odd and out of character, wouldn't it? "A man came to Jesus and asked for the demon to be cast out, and Jesus responded, 'Return to Me in three days after a period of My fasting, for such is required for this type of demon.'" It makes no sense.
Then what do these words mean? Fairly simple, if you read them as the words of a God who loved metaphor.
Prayer is conversation or communion with God. It's being fully present to the dynamic between Creator and creation. It's having that intimacy and that close relationship with the One who created you, the One whose name you are acting in, the One whose authority you are acting on.
Fasting is the denial of self. It's getting rid of even your most basic instinct in order to pursue something righteous. Something holy, if you want to say it that way. It's making room within your flesh for the Spirit of God to move.
That's what I think Jesus meant by prayer and fasting. Not that we should fold our hands and empty our stomachs, but that we should take God's hand and empty ourselves. That's how Jesus was able to handle that demon in that moment - He was fully communed with God (prayer) and emptied of Himself (fasting). He had but one agenda - God's power and authority prevailing over the powers of this world. It's that simple.
Right. Simple until you actually have to do it. Yet I find that this is what works. Every good thing I have seen God do through my healing work is not by my ability and not even by my authority (given by God) to do such work. It's been by God's presence and the full measure of His intent in any situation. He has sent me to do healing work, to bring His healing to bear on the broken among us, but I cannot do it without Him. If I could, I might forget the meaning of His name in all of this. Rather, He's asked me to do it with prayer and fasting -
Wholly with Him, empty of me. So I always remember exactly who the Healer is.