Do we wear crosses as magical protection talismans to ward off demons? Should we create a spiritual force field around our cars by pasting on a fish symbol? Perhaps having a priest sprinkle our new home with holy water will do the trick?
Jesus in Mark 9 gives us the answer: Depend on God in faith by prayer.
Mark 9 is an interesting chapter and definitely historical. (The early church would never have made up this account as it puts the disciples in a very bad light.) While Jesus is being transfigured – the thin veil hiding Jesus’ deity is lifted for a brief moment – the disciples are failing at casting a demon out of a boy. Jesus returns and rebukes them for their lack of faith by calling them an “unbelieving generation” and exorcises the demon by simply speaking. Jesus then adds that “this kind can only come out by prayer”.
The demon was trying to destroy the boy. In v22 the boy’s father says, “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.” Satan’s intention is to destroy human beings.
You don’t however need to be demon-possessed or a Satanist for Satan to destroy you. In Mark 8:33 Jesus says to Peter, who is not demon-possessed by simply rejects the cross,”Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Rejecting the truth of Jesus leads you to destruction just as much as being controlled by a demon. In fact, living the world’s way in general as apposed to God’s way can only end in tears, pain and heartache.
The world today
Jesus on the mount of transfiguration is a picture of the world today. While Jesus is here by his Spirit, physically he in not with us, he is in heaven in glory with God the Father. How are we to deal with evil and Satan’s destructive intentions? When Jesus said, “this kind can only come out by prayer”, I think he meant “this kind of problem, the problem of evil, can only be dealt with by prayer”. Prayer is evidence of faith. If we have faith we pray; if we do not have faith we don’t pray. We pray to become Christians and we pray as Christians. Our prayer demonstrates that we do not have the power our ability to deal with evil but God has.
Nowhere in the Bible are we told as Christians to cast out demons, but we are told to pray unceasingly (e.g. Ephesians 6:18). Prayer demonstrates and actually is our dependence on God. In a world where Satan is called the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) we live by faith-filled, prayer-filled dependence on the One True God.
It’s interesting to observe that while saying that the problem of evil can only be dealt with by prayer, Jesus never actually prayed on that occasion. He simply commanded the demon. Why? Jesus is the One True God who has defeated Satan on the cross.
Fishes and Crosses
There is nothing wrong with a fish on your car or a cross on your necklace, as long as we realise that those symbols in and of themselves are not magic, but simply remind us of where our true help and power comes from.