Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 8 — The Philosophy Behind Prayer and Fasting
Matthew 17:19-21, "Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Jesus had returned from the mount of transfiguration. He performed a miracle that the disciples tried to perform in His absence and could not. They asked Him, "Why could we not?" His answer was, "Because of your unbelief." Their question and His answer leads us to several conclusions.
1. Faith is the ONE condition on which all divine power rests. The Lord Jesus said, "According to your faith be it unto you." (Matthew 9:29a) Again He said, "All things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23b)
2. There are degrees of faith. The Lord Jesus said, "According to your faith be it unto you," which means little faith, little answered prayer—more faith, more answered prayer—much faith, much answered prayer.
3. If answered prayer comes because of faith, and if there are degrees of faith, then there are degrees of answered prayer. The same Saviour Who said, "According to your faith," said, "be it unto you." He said, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting," which means that there are degrees of answered prayer. Small faith gets small answers—more faith gets larger answers—much faith gets the largest answers.
4. This means if we are to get our prayers to grow, we must get our faith to grow. If faith is the one condition on which all divine power rests, and if there are degrees of faith, there are also degrees of answered prayer. Hence, we must find some way to get our faith to grow.
5. When the Lord Jesus says, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting," He is teaching us that prayer and fasting generate faith. (Mark 9:29) This means that faith needs both prayer and fasting. Prayer is the grasping of the invisible. Fasting is the letting go of the visible. One's degree of faith depends on the degree between the visible and the invisible. As we fast, that is, withdraw ourselves from physical appetites and the satisfying of the senses, we are letting go of the visible. As we pray, we are grasping the invisible.
6. There must be times that we let go of the visible completely and hold completely to the invisible if we are to reach the ultimate in prayer. Now to be sure, we are left here on earth in physical bodies. We must be fed, we must have our physical appetites satisfied, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that if it is not done to excess. There should, however, be seasons when we let go of the visible completely and grasp the invisible with all of our hearts. These are the seasons when we need miracles to take place.
This also means that our release of the visible should depend upon the greatness of our needs in answer to prayer. Just as fasting and praying is grasping completely the invisible and letting go completely of the visible, there are degrees of fasting and praying which would be determined by the size of our needs and the bigness of our prayers.
There are dangers. One danger is holding on to the invisible and not letting go of the visible. Another would be letting go of the visible but not holding on to the invisible. For example, there are times when I feel that I should fast one day a week. I may some need that is greater than usual and I might give one day a week to fasting and to as much praying as possible. Suppose the offerings were down at church and I had a burden about them. Suppose I had the need for several hundred dollars in my own life. Needs of this magnitude might drive me to letting go of the visible for one day a week and for as much time as possible during that day holding on to the invisible, which is prayer and fasting.
At other times, however, while the children were growing up, I might have been really concerned about them. I remember one time one of the children was just not doing well at all, and I was really heartbroken. I prayed and fasted for that child for three or four days. This was because the need was of a greater magnitude than that of a weekly financial need at church or the need or the need of a few hundred dollars in my personal life.
Then there were the days when I was praying for God to give us Hyles-Anderson College campus. This beautiful 78-acre campus with unbelievably built buildings was seemingly unavailable, but I knew that God wanted us to have it, so I would fast maybe for a week at a time and pray that God would give us the campus. Then one night a month I would pray all night long. You see, when the burden was bigger, the need was of a greater magnitude. For even greater needs, I have fasted as long as two weeks. Now it does little good to fast unless one prays. It does little good to let go of the visible if one does not grasp the invisible.
If one thinks that all is lawful unless it is expressly forbidden in the Bible, then he will never know great power in prayer. We are not only to lay aside every sin, but as a runner in the race for God, we are to lat aside every weight. Hebrews 12:1, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." The soldier in warfare takes only what is needed for battle. There are many things that he cannot take that would not be sinful to take, but those things are too cumbersome, and the battle would be lost. A runner in a race not only lays aside his drinking and smoking, but he also lays aside his overcoat, his heavy boots and things that are not sinful to wear but would cause him not to win the race. Eating is not wrong if it is not done in excess. Physical love within the plan of God is not wrong. The enjoyment of nature is not wrong, but there are times when we have to lay aside that which is not wrong in order that we may let go for a season of the visible and grasp the invisible so that we may know the miracle-working power of God in answer to our prayers.
Hence, since faith is the one condition on which all divine power rests, and since there are degrees of faith, there must also be degrees of answered prayer. Therefore, if we are to get our answers to grow, we must get our faith to grow. Our faith grows by prayer, which is the grasping of the invisible, and by fasting, which is the letting go of the visible. As we do these two things, our faith grows, and as our faith grows, our answered prayer grows. This is the philosophy behind prayer and fasting.
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