. Are We Trying to 'Cast Out Demons without Prayer'?

Are We Trying to ‘Cast Out Demons without Prayer’?

We pray because we are in a spiritual struggle—that we must take personally. We must pray for another reason: the work of the Church is God’s work, not ours. Jesus made that fact clear from the very inception of the Church. He asked his disciples who people were saying he was. They gave the report: some were saying he was John the Baptist, others were saying he perhaps was Jeremiah or Elijah or another one of the prophets. Then he asked the biggest question God ever asks anyone: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter shot his hand up to answer that one. He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Pay close attention to what Jesus said in response to this first confession of faith in him. He first clarified how Peter came upon this momentous discovery. He let him know that it was not a conclusion that Peter arrived at on his own. He didn’t figure it out because he had spent so much time with Jesus, listening to what he said, watching his miracles. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (italics mine).

Merely to have spent a lot of time with Jesus, up close and personal, as great as that must have been, was not sufficient for Peter to apprehend who Jesus was. It required a supernatural event, a divine revelation. God’s work begins with God, not humankind.

And so his work continues, for Jesus added, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matt 16:13–18, italics mine). Of course we must pray! If God is the builder and we are his servants in the building of his Church, it is presumptuous to build without prayer.

And completely ineffective. Jesus came down the Mount of Transfiguration to an argument his disciples were having with the teachers of the law. They were unable to heal a demonized boy, a pathetic child who was periodically seized by an evil spirit and thrown to the ground, foaming at the mouth. When Jesus was told what the brouhaha was about, he said something he must often feel when he looks at his prayerless church: “O unbelieving generation . . . how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me” (Mark 9:19). Then he healed the boy.

When the excitement died down enough for them to ask the question, his disciples said, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus’ answer is as devastating as it is brief. He said, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29). They had to pray to drive the demon out! What on earth were they doing before Jesus walked up? Whatever it was, clearly they weren’t praying. They were trying to cast out demons without prayer!

So we must pray, because the work of the Church is God’s work, not ours! We must also pray because prayer actually gets God’s work done.


The author’s views do not necessarily represent those of Faithlife. The title is the addition of the editor.

By Ben Patterson, adapted from Deepening Your Conversation with God.

Written by
Faithlife Staff

Faithlife (makers of Logos Bible Software) is the largest developer of Bible study software and a worldwide leader in multilingual electronic publishing. Faithlife partners with more than 500 publishers to make more than 120,000 Bible study resources available to customers around the world. More recently, Faithlife has launched the world's first integrated ministry platform, a full suite of ministry, communication, and management tools for churches.

View all articles
  • But if you’ll notice, in the context Jesus didn’t pray either! So, either that prayer wasn’t recorded, or Jesus was saying something else. This isn’t original to me, but Jesus drove out the demon because He was a man of prayer. What Jesus is telling them, I believe, is that in order to have a ministry of driving out demons, they need to be people of prayer, let prayer characterize their lives. Quite the opposite of make sure you pray when you’re in over your head – rather stay connected to God (through prayer) at all times.

    No examples of driving out demons in the NT include any mention of praying in order to cast them out–not in the Gospels, nor in Acts. I think that’s interesting.

    BTW, just to be clear, Jesus didn’t drive out demons by the power of His divinity. He himself said that He drove out demons by the Spirit of God (Matt.12:28).

    • Thank you Richard, I believe Jesus’ casting out demons was as a result of Mark 1: 35. Ben’s article makes it sound like the prayer is supposed to happen at the time of the exorcism, but looks like it would be more accurate to say that such prayers are supposed to be part of our daily routines just like they were for Christ. I really liked the “God’s work begins with God, not humankind” statement though!

    • Nice observations Richard.

      I wonder about the pericope in Acts 19:13 – 16.

      We do not know if the itinerant exorcists followed the prerequisites to enter the New Covenant, which include baptism as per Acts 2:38, and receiving the Holy Spirit.

      Once one enters the New Covenant and receives power from above, one receives authority delegated from Christ that has all authority.

      Prayer is then the communication channel to receive marching orders.

      So if the whole system is not working properly, a fate similar to the itinerant exorcists will be had, as technically such persons are operating outside the will of God in several dimension.

      God is a God of order and the system is well prescribed and revealed in the Bible.

      Thanks ahead of time for your input.

Written by Faithlife Staff