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Hands crossed in prayer

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Mark 9:28-29

John Piper, in his book on fasting, Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, looks at Francis Schaeffer’s legacy of worldview engagement, and then writes:

But I wonder if many of the young scholars and activists (now in their forties and fifties!) whom he inspired need to hear a balancing word about the power of prayer and fasting, not as an alternative to thinking and acting, but as a radical foundation that says, “The victory belongs to the Lord, even if the horse (of scholarship and politics) is made ready for the day of battle” (see Proverbs 21:31).

Listen to the books crying out for

  • evangelical renewal and reformation in the life of the mind,
  • the restoration of Truth in the place of technique,
  • the recovery of church social compassion from government powerlessness,
  • the taking of moral high ground in the environmental cause,
  • and many other causes.

Is there a sense in each of these that the root issues are so intractable to human suasion that the call for fasting and prayer would not only be fitting but desperately needed?

I am commending such a call.

“Fasting,” Piper writes, “comes in alongside prayer with all its hunger for God and says,

We are not able in ourselves to win this battle.

We are not able to change hearts or minds.

We are not able to change worldviews and transform culture and save 1.6 million children.

We are not able to reform the judiciary or embolden the legislature or mobilize the slumbering population.

We are not able to heal the endless wounds of godless ideologies and their bloody deeds.

But, O God, you are able!

And we turn from reliance on ourselves to you.

And we cry out to you and plead that for the sake of your name, and for the sake of your glory, and for the advancement of your saving purpose in the world, and for the demonstration of your wisdom and your power and your authority over all things, and for the sway of your Truth and the relief of the poor and the helpless, act, O God.

This much we hunger for the revelation of your power.

With all our thinking and all our writing and all our doing, we pray and we fast.

Come. Manifest your glory.

Piper continues:

I appeal to you to seek the Lord with me concerning the place of fasting and prayer in breaking through the darkened mind that engulfs the modern world, in regard to abortion and a hundred other ills.

This is not a call for a collective tantrum that screams at the bad people, “Give me back my country.”

It is a call to aliens and exiles in the earth, whose citizenship is in heaven and who await the appearance of their King, to “do business” until he comes (Luke 19:13).

And the great business of the Christian is to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), and to pray that God’s name be hallowed and his kingdom come and his will be done in the earth (Matthew 6:9-10). And to yearn and work and pray and fast not only for the final revelation of the Son of Man, but in the meantime, for the demonstration of his Spirit and power in the reaching of every people, and the rescuing of the perishing, and the purifying of the church, and the putting right of as many wrongs as God will grant.

I join Piper in commending this practice to you. What looks foolish to the world (forgoing food to pray for the protection of the unborn) may look utterly foolish to the world, but it will be pleasing to the God who sees and rewards in secret.

Update: John Piper suggests we consider fasting over lunch on Wednesday, July 15, to pray for the rescue of the most defenseless members of our society. Will you join us?

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10 thoughts on “This Kind Cannot Be Driven Out by Worldview Training and Legislation: The Place of Prayer and Fasting for the Pro-Life Movement”

  1. Magdalene Sukala says:

    *Correction: the verses cited are actually from Mark 9:28-29, not 8:28-29. But aside from that, great article! Amen to all of it!

  2. Jeremy Edgar says:

    I’m in.

  3. Eric Hullstrom says:

    I’m in. Let’s pray…

  4. Sally Petrrson says:

    I’ll join you!

  5. Nathan Lummus says:

    I’m in.

  6. Dan Jones says:

    I’m in.

  7. Jeff says:

    Just a couple of proposals here:
    It seems, in the context of Mark 9, that Jesus could be responding to the disciples lack of faith in the situation and not necessarily the demon. In this light, He may have been teaching an identity lesson. One that we all, as Christians, could learn from. Perhaps the answer to all these worldly issues is that we forget that we are not fighting against people but against demonic influences on those people. With a call to fast to increase our connection (faith) with the Godhead we could all begin to hear His voice better and be able to imediatly deal with the real issues which, in my humble opinion, are heart issues. People believing the lies of those demonic influences and then live as if the lies are their truth.
    Paul reminds us that the whole earth waits patiently, though some may disagree with the patiently part, for God’s sons (and daughters), secure in their Kingdom identities, unafraid and full of illogical faith… to be revealed.
    I suggest fasting for an increase in faith and understanding of what the cross actually accomplished in us.
    Thank you.

  8. Janet Aldrich says:

    I joined you.

  9. Alexandra Lee says:

    Joining in!

  10. a. says:

    :” amen

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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