Mark 9:14-29; Matthew 17:14-21
What happened to “and fasting”
Mark 9:14-29; Matthew 17:14-21
In Mark 9 we read the story of Jesus’ disciples trying unsuccessfully to cast out a demon from a small boy. The key to this story comes in prayer. But what does prayer and fasting have to do with casting out demons? And what happened to “and fasting?” in this story? LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT!
It was brought to my attention by Katrina Kolseth and Rachel Anglin that some key words were missing in Mark 9:29. In our daily reading we were looking at the story of how Jesus cast a demon out of a little boy. The disciples had already tried but couldn’t do it. So that led to a discussion with Jesus after he and the disciples were alone.
Mark 9:28-29 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Depending on your version of the New Testament you might find that this praise also has “and fasting” in it. KJV and NKJV have it. So does the Classic Amplified Bible, BRG, Holman, Darby, the EHV, The Good News Version, ISV, Jubilee, Modern English, and others.The NIV, NASB, PHILLIPS, CSV, and most modern translations do not. A few versions include the word “much” prayer. The older and more conservative versions include fasting while the contemporary interpreters omit it.
We must address the fact the faith and prayer go hand in hand here. For some reason this point seems to be left out of a lot of lessons and sermons. But faith is perhaps the most important key. Even the story before this, the transfiguration, shows a lack of understanding about faith in Jesus. Peter wants to build tabernacles for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. He misses the point that Jesus is the Son of God.
In Matthew’s account there is a matter of a lack of faith in the disciples who were trying to cast out the demon as well as everyone around them. Jesus rebukes everyone by saying, “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” In Mark’s account the lack of faith is aimed more at the father who says, “If you can.” Prayer without faith is just words spoken… a litany if you will. There is very little power there. So you better make sure you are praying and working in faith. Power in prayer comes from righteous faith. James says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” Ja 5:16). The righteous person prays earnestly from his faith that God can do what is needed to be done.
But why remove “and fasting” from Mark 9:29. The simple answer is that the words “kai nesteia” is highly debated because it does not appear in the earliest transcripts. All transcripts came from an original that was copied many times. We do not have the originals but we have various copies. Translators not only have to “piece together” the text and intent from the words but also from various fragments of transcripts. Some transcripts are missing pieces due to age.
Because it is not in earlier transcripts interpreters choose to omit it rather than include it because of tradition. That is also why Matthew 17:21 is omitted from some translations. Some believe that it was added later by scribes when fasting became a major thing with prayer. Others believe that it was a side not or margin note that later got added into the passage.
Whether it is there are not is really not relevant. What is important is the type of prayer. Powerful prayer does not happen by accident. The simplest explanation is that the Greek word προσευχή (pros-yoo-khay') is an intense form of pray which in some cases is accompanied by “and supplication”. The literal interpretation of the word is an exchange of wishes or desires. It implies a deep conversation. Because fasting is a deep type of prayer it can be implied.
The key to understanding this story really comes to Matthew 17:20: He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Why a mustard seed… it is small. But compared to the faith that the disciples and others had it would be big. Jesus is telling them to have more faith.