Faith Must Be Cultivated, Strengthened And Deepened Through Prayer And Fasting

On 9 August 2015, the Christians are on the 10 Sunday after the Pentecost. The Church scheduled to read at the Divine Liturgy the evangelical parable of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew 17:14-23, which presents the healing of the boy with a demon: “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church explained the teaching of this evangelical parable in the sermon delivered after the Divine Liturgy celebrated in the chapel of the Patriarchal Residence dedicated to “Saint Gregory the Enlightener”.

The great value of the prayer for others

“First of all, we see that this child is healed by Jesus not at his personal request, because he was no longer able to express his sufferance in words, and neither to ask for help for himself, but his father prays Jesus Christ, our Lord, to heal him. Thus, we see how useful other people’s prayer for us is, when we are no longer able to pray or we do not know how to pray for us.

Secondly, we see that this grieved father, who was living the sufferance of his son himself, had already tried to get his son’s healing with the disciples of Jesus, but he saw with great sorrow that they could not heal the child. This is why he came to Jesus and asked him to heal his son. After healing the child, Christ, the Lord, tells His disciples that they could not heal him because their faith was not strong enough. Certainly, the disciples had a certain faith, but it was not strong enough, to make the demon that was torturing the child to be afraid of the words of Jesus’ disciples and release the child. When reading the Gospel, one can notice that Jesus Christ, our Lord, did not want to reprove His disciples in public for their little faith, but included them in the crowd present who was not faithful enough: “You unbelieving and perverse generation,how long shall I stay with you?” (Matthew 17:17). This reprove shows the dissatisfaction of Jesus Christ, our Lord, when he sees the people’s lack of faith or their little faith, even when they pass through hard trials”, His Beatitude said.

Only when we have strong faith, insisting prayer and sacrificial fasting Jesus gives us a lot

“The Gospel reads that the poor child with a demon was healed “at that time”, not after a time, but at the time when Jesus Christ, our Lord, rebuked the demon and cast him out. When Jesus’ disciples saw this miraculous healing He had done, they asked Him why they could not do it: “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”.” (Matthew 17:19), and Jesus answered them: “Because you have no faith” or in another translation: “Because you have so little faith.” (Matthew 17:20). Then, He added something else, namely that “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21). Jesus tells His disciples that they could not cast out the demon from the child because their faith was little or weak. Therefore, today’s Gospel teaches us that faith must be cultivated, strengthened, and deepened through prayer and fasting, lest faith be a simple intellectual conviction, but  become a living relationship of the human with the God Unseen, Who is very close to man through His grace, when this one prays for His help.

We also learn from the words of Jesus Christ, our Lord, that there are several kinds of demons, some of them worse and more violent than others, and that the demons who torture the humans can be cast out only with prayer and fasting. Why does the Saviour say that, namely that faith, prayer, and fasting are needed for healing? Because only if we have strong faith, insisting prayer and sacrificial fasting, namely our total dedication to God, then He also dedicates Himself to us, that is we receive in us the presence of His holiness and the power of His grace in us. But if man has no strong faith in God, he is tempted to believe that the demons cannot be defeated, that disease cannot be healed, that everything is baleful fatality, with no possibility to change a bad state into a good one”, the Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church underlined.

The demons can be cast out only through prayer and fasting

“The demons can be cast out only through prayer and fasting, because they are afraid only of the presence of the grace of God in man and because the love and holiness of God contrast with the wickedness of the demons. This is why we must increase and cultivate our prayer, so that it may change from a prayer often formal and superficial, into an ardent and insisting prayer, which warms the heart, enlightens the mind and calms the senses through the grace of God received in prayer. We must also fast living first of all on the loving presence of Christ reading the Holy Scriptures, the Saints’ Writings and Lives, communicating with the Holy Sacraments, and doing good deeds. If we abstain from material dishes but we do not live more intensely on spiritual food, our fasting is not fruitful in spiritual virtues, and if we fast and do no spiritual or material charity, our fasting is not complete. But the prayer united with full fasting mysteriously includes in it the power of the cross and joy of the Resurrection of Christ, because true fasting is a free dedication to God, a spiritual offering brought to Him. Christ, the Son of God, dedicates Himself, in His turn, to the prayerful and fasting people, namely He answers their prayers with merciful love, because He first loved the humans and offered Himself for the life of the world through His Crucifixion and Resurrection”, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said

The Church prays and works for the humans’ spiritual and physical healing

“The Church taught, through the many miraculous healings that Christ did in the world, that she is called to contribute to the healing of the spiritual and physical diseases and helplessness of the humans. This is why besides her liturgical work for the sick through the Sacrament of the Holy Unction and through prayers for the sick the Church has also developed a social-philanthropic work for the sick, setting up institutions for their medical care. Thus, she organised her own hospitals, nurseries, consulting rooms, medical centres so that the healing power of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, should be shown as work of His merciful love in the Church and society”, the Patriarch of Romania has also shown.

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