Questions From Readers
▪ What did Jesus mean when he said about a demon: “This kind cannot get out by anything except by prayer”?
A man whose son was seized by “a speechless spirit” asked Jesus to expel the wicked spirit, for the disciples were unable to do so. Jesus, with God’s powerful backing, expelled the demon. Afterward the disciples asked: “Why could we not expel it?” According to Mark’s account, Christ replied: “This kind cannot get out by anything except by prayer.” (Mark 9:14-29) In his parallel account, Matthew presents Jesus’ reply this way: “Because of your little faith.”—Matthew 17:14-20.
Why did he stress faith and prayer? Experience shows that the demons do not all necessarily have the same interests or abilities. For example, some seem to concentrate on haunting houses, whereas other wicked spirits focus on harassing or possessing humans. And we may conclude from Jesus’ reply that some demons are especially powerful.—Ephesians 6:12.
While Jesus was on earth, God enabled some of his servants to cast out wicked spirits who possessed unfortunate individuals. The twelve apostles and seventy disciples were enabled to do so. (Matthew 10:8; Luke 10:17) But those of the apostles involved in the instance related in Matthew 17:14-20 and Mark 9:14-29 were unable to expel the demon. Why? What was lacking? Evidently it was the preparation called for in order to confront the sort of demon involved in this case. Strong faith was needed, along with prayer ahead of time requesting God’s empowering help. Though the accounts do not mention that Jesus offered a specific prayer in that case, he may have done so. Then he succeeded in casting out the powerful demon.