Jesus said, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer." The disciples did not PRAY?

Permit me to quote at length an account of an exorcism by Jesus that his disciples were unable to perform:

When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” [Mark 9: 14-29, NASB]

What is Jesus saying? Is he saying that the disciples who originally attempted the exorcism did not PRAY? I ask because I was under the impression that an exorcism was ALL prayer (I’m pretty sure this is the case for modern Catholic exorcisms). If the desciples attempted an exorcism without prayer, what on earth were they actually doing? Or, if they prayed, what did Jesus mean by his answer? Did he mean that the disciples were not in a State of Grace, and their prayers (though offered) were innefective?

Our Lord’s answer seems to be like saying that you can’t have an oil change for a car unless you change the oil (which is obviously known to any mechanic). What am I missing here?

Of course it makes no sense because the manuscripts used for the translation of the NASB are missing two words, “and fasting”

If you read the passage, there’s actual no mention of anyone praying as a part of the exorcism, and perhaps we should conclude that there was no formal Rite of Exorcism at this point, and the disciples were telling unclean spirits to depart in God’s name. If this was this case, perhaps this very account was an important step in the formation of the Rite.

It seems to be missing from the Catholic New American Bible’s manuscripts as well.

It does, however, occur in the Latin Vulgate (though it is numbered in verse 28), as “oratione et ieiunio” (prayer and fasting).

That’s the problem with ancient manuscripts. St. Jerome (when he compiled most of the Vulgate) lamented that he had found as many versions as copies (meaning no copies completely agree). This is one reason why the Church does not rely on ancient manuscripts, but upon the Magesterium led by the Holy Spirit.

Is fasting a proscribed part of the Rite of Exorcism? If it is, that’s evidence that the Magesterium agrees with your exegesis. But I don’t know.

EDIT: After I made my post, I noticed that you identify yourself as Orthodox. So you really don’t give a fig what the (Roman) Catholic Magesterium does. So I ask you this: Why do you think that Mark actually included the words “and fasting” in his original text? What is the authoritative basis of this belief? Obviously some (Greek) manuscripts include the phrase, and others do not. Modern textual scholars (using giant databases of ancient texts with computerized “data mining” tools unavailable to our predecessors) have concluded that “and fasting” is a gloss, and should be excluded. Why do you disagree with these scientists? Maybe this should be a different post (it’s kinda off-topic, but I’m the OP, so I think I have a little more leeway to derail my own thread, but I will open another thread if it seems appropriate).

Ah, that’s a good point. In a manner of speaking, the disciples would have been “praying” to the unclean spirits, and maybe they needed to widen the circle a bit.

The words “and fasting” appear in the texts which the Church has handed down. Since the Church is the authority on the bible and not modern textual scholars, I go with what the Church teaches :slight_smile:

Waitaminute - you’re Orthodox. To which texts do you refer to, that the “Church” has handed down? What Church are you talking about? To which texts do you refer?

Do the Orthodox have a Greek version of the Latin Vulgate? The Vulgate is the “official” text for the Latin Catholics, but I don’t suppose the Greeks would have any regard for it.

Do the Orthodox have an “official” Greek text, similar to the Vulgate for Latin Catholics? What is it called? I would be interested in learning about it.

The Church began as Greek-speaking, but the Roman Church became Latin speaking. Thus, the Latin Church needed a Latin New Testament. Pope Damascus commissioned St. Jerome to do this translation.

I had always thought the Greeks preferred the original Greek manuscripts. But (as Jerome lamented), none of these manuscripts agree. Some have this clause (“and fasting”), and others do not.

Latin Catholics believe that the Scriptures are inspired, but only in their original form. The problem is that NONE of the Scriptures (in ANY language) are preserved in their original written form - not even tiny fragments. We don’t even have a postage-stamped size fragment of anything that was written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Paul (or any other NT author) in their own handwriting. We have only copies (ALL of which are several generations removed from their original authors).

Latin scholars, such as the pioneering St. Jerome, have attempted to “reconstruct” the originals from several copies of copies of copies, none of which completely agree. Modern Biblical scholars continue this work, but with a much broader corpus of ancient texts and with sophisticated computerized tools to do in seconds what Jerome, working by candlelight, did in years (and Jerome was working with a MUCH smaller corpus to inform his translation).

But, to my knowledge, the Orthodox have never made any effort to arrive at an “official” Greek version of the New Testament, as Jerome did for the Latin text. Why do you (as an Orthodox) feel that the clause “and fasting” is not a gloss, as it has been concluded by all modern textual scientists, and appears in some (but not other) Greek manuscripts?

We use what is known in Latin as the Septuagint, which means 70. Tradition states that when the Old Testament was translated into Greek, they chose six scribes from each of the 12 tribes and gave them the task of translating in parallel. When each group brought their finished translation together it was found that they had all translated identically, and thus they understood that the work of translating had Gods blessing.
The text that is in use in Greece is referred to as the Textus Receptus or TR as this is the text that has been handed down in the Church over the centuries.
The reason why we have no original manuscripts is because they were literally worn out through constant use, and this is one of the problems I have with modern textual criticism of bible manuscripts. Many of the older complete or semi complete manuscripts which have been discovered in recent times, have survived down to this day by nature of the fact that they weren’t being used. They didn’t wear out because the Church had no use for texts which had been copied carelessly or had deliberate errors. In the field of textual criticism of biblical manuscripts, older does not necessarily equate to better or more accurate. One greek manuscript was ‘rescued’ from a monastery rubbish bin. I think it should have been left there.

You will also find the passage quoted numerous times by the Church Fathers and they always speak of prayer AND fasting.

The disciples may have been trying exorcisms that relied on older traditions - essentially. magical incantations that did not call on God’s power to expel the demon, but instead relied upon saying the right words or using the exorcist’s personal power and skill as (essentially) a magician. Jesus may have been saying, only through invoking God’s power through prayer can the demon be expelled. It’s the difference between a pagan conception of power, in which nature can be manipulated if one knows the right words, and the Christian conception that one must align oneself with God.

That’s interesting, and has allowed me to research this subject.

I would like to discuss this further, but it’s not really on-topic here, so I have opened a new thread for this discussion.

The USCCB website explains that this verse does have a variant that adds “and fasting.” I have three bibles, all of which insert this wording. But the real issue is not to nitpick the prayer and fasting issue, but focus on what is the heart of Our Lord’s message, “All things are possible to him who believes.” Anything might be done by the divine power and goodness, in favour of him that had a** firm and lively faith**.

Prayer, with or without the addition of fasting, would be for an increase in one’s faith, the underlying issue that may have been lacking with the apostles, who were rather weak in this incident with respect to exorcism. Later on, we find examples in Acts where their faith was stronger, and did not hinder their casting out of demons.

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