Can demons be cast out by prayer or is fasting required too?
Casting out demons, expelling demons, or demon exorcism is an important topic among both Christians and non-Christians. There are a wide variety of solutions offered to remove demons. Some teach that Christians can be demon-possessed. But the Bible teaches that is not true. For 1 John 4:4 assures us that true believers in Jesus Christ cannot and will not be demon-possessed because we are told that the Holy Spirit who is within is greater than he who is in the world.
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (NASB)
The content of the passage is about demon spirits creating false doctrine and motivating false teachers to arise. For more information visit these helpful articles:
Now we will answer the question: if a non-Christian is demon-possessed, how can we help? Can demons be cast out by prayer or is fasting required too?
The answer to our question is found in two important passages. The first one is Matthew 17:21. The context of the verse is about demon-possession that caused a man to be a lunatic and very ill (Matthew 17:14-21). We are told that Jesus’s disciples could not cast out the demon. So, Jesus was asked why they could not. Verse 21 gives us Jesus’s answer. He said,
[“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”] Matthew 17:21
The New American Standard Version Bible (NASB), has brackets on the verse. That indicates this verse does not belong in the gospel of Matthew. For more information about the existence of Matthew 17:21, please read “Why is Matthew 17:21 missing or only a footnote in my Bible?” for an explanation as to why the verse does not belong in the gospel. Most modern Bible versions now do not contain the verse. But the NASB includes it and puts brackets around it to alert the reader to the problem. Therefore, this verse should not be used to establish any doctrine about how to cast out demons.
Mark 9:29 is the second important verse that gives us Jesus’s solution to casting out demons. Mark 9:14-29 describes the same event that Matthew 17:14-21 does but with more details. Notice that Mark tells us what Jesus actually said on this occasion,
And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:29 (NASB)
That is, Jesus said that this kind of demon can only be removed by prayer. This is important because Matthew and Mark both revealed that this demon was very difficult to expel. The disciples could not expel it. Now notice two important facts about Jesus’s statement. First, He did not include the word “fasting.” That is, fasting is not required to expel this strong or difficult to remove demon. Second, Jesus used the word “cannot.” The Greek two words He used that are translated as “cannot” literally mean “never” and the second word, “able” or “power.” That is, the only way this most powerful demon can be cast out is by prayer. We do not need to do fasting, perform some ritual, use some incantation, or do something else. Jesus gave us the powerful and only solution to casting out the most difficult demon. Pray . . .
Can demons be cast out by prayer or is fasting required too? Yes and no! Only prayer is required. We can rejoice that Jesus gave us a simple and powerful method for expelling demons. We must not depend upon ourselves to cast demons. The most powerful approach to casting out demons is by prayer, and prayer alone. We need to depend upon our all powerful God to remove the demon!
1. Philip W Comfort. Matthew 17:21. New Testament Text and Translation Commentary. Tyndall House Publishers. 2008. p. 51.
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Why is Matthew 17:21 missing or only a footnote in my Bible?