There’s different kinds. I guess that’s not too surprising. It’s just not something I’ve really paused to noodle on. There’s different kinds of demons, different types of evil spirits.
And when [Jesus] 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 ESV)
This wasn’t the disciples’ first encounter with demons. Jesus had given them “authority over the unclean spirits” and they had previously exercised that authority. They had already “cast out many demons” (Mk. 6:7b, 13a). So why not this one? Why couldn’t they cast this one out?
Since childhood this man’s son had been demonized. In bondage to a spirit that had stricken him mute and had repeatedly seized him, thrown him to the ground, and caused him to foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become rigid. It might have looked like epilepsy, but evidently what the boy suffered from was anything but natural causes. His was not a battle against flesh and blood. He was wrestling with “cosmic powers” of darkness and “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12). And whatever it was that owned the boy, it wasn’t your run of the mill demon, it was this kind. The kind that could only be driven out by prayer.
Though Jesus’ disciples had experience with dispossessing demons, they had failed to recognize that not every kind was the same kind. Perhaps they thought they had the casting out demons thing down pat. Just place your hand here, give an authoritative command there, top it off with “in the name of Jesus” for good measure, and, “Presto!”, demon be gone. But apparently that’s not how it works.
The disciples failed to discern. Perhaps they had become over-confident. Eventually, it seems, they became desperate. Wonder if they also weren’t doubting, thinking somehow they had lost the “magic touch” (in the Matthew 17 parallel count, Jesus says their failure to cast out the demon was “because of your little faith”).
I guess I’m thinking there may be a broader application beyond casting out demons. We can’t rest on past victories. We can’t allow ourselves to go on auto-pilot thinking that because we figured out something once, we’ve got the next thing in the bag. Can’t be lulled into a complacent stupor which fails to recognize that today’s battles with the flesh, the world, and the forces of darkness may not be the same as they were yesterday. Rather, we need to be awake, alert, and ready of this kind. A new kind that requires new dependency, new humility, and new importunity through prayer.
Don’t know what needs to be “cast out” today. But I’d be foolish to think it’s the same as yesterday. Even more foolish to coast into today thinking that the skirmishes won yesterday guarantees victory in the battle today. That I’m up for whatever. That I’ve got it.
“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Father, help me to be awake, alert, and ready for this kind no matter the kind. Let me enter today’s battle against the flesh in the power of the Spirit. Let me engage the things of earth with my mind set on things above. And, along the way, whether I encounter this kind or that kind, help me to do so in dependent, believing prayer without ceasing.
By Your grace. For Your glory.