In the past few months, I’ve felt God leading me to set aside a particular day each week to fast and pray. At first, I wasn’t excited at all about this. At one time, fasting once a week for the purpose of prayer was a regular part of my life, but in recent years I haven’t practiced it.
Fasting is referred to several times in the Old Testament and was commonly practiced by believers in New Testament times.
So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. Ezra 8:23
Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. Acts 14:23
I decided on a particular day of the week to fast. I didn’t think I could go 24 hours without food so I asked the Lord how long my fast should be. Then, in that soul-whisper voice that God uses to speak to us, I sensed Him say, “Just until 3 pm.” A few weeks later, while I was visiting my mother, my sister, Brenda, also visiting, began to tell me how God was leading her to fast for a day each week. Then she said, “Just until three in the afternoon.”
Why three o’clock, I wondered. Three is an important number in the Bible and it appears many times.
- Three is the number of divine perfection – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- On the third day of creation, the earth rose up out of the water (Gen. 1:13).
- On the third day Jesus rose up out of the grave (Luke 24).
- Peter denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:54-62).
- When Jesus was on the cross, darkness fell from noon to 3 pm (Luke 25:44,45).
Most important of all, after the three hours of darkness, at three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus died. His last words on the cross were, “It is finished.” Divine perfection. Jesus, the only Son of God became the once-and-for-all sacrifice for the sin of the entire world.
I didn’t think about the significance of three o’clock in the afternoon when I first heard the whisper of it. Now that I have thought about it, it makes sense. It’s the hour of completion.
On the subject of fasting prayer, I share this experience from a number of years ago:
My husband, Doug, knew he was coming to the end of his employment with a major Canadian company. His commissions had decreased while frustrations increased. The writing was on the wall: the company would be eliminating positions like his. We prayed for wisdom and for a new door of employment to open. Nothing happened.
Then we set aside a weekend for fasting and prayer. Monday morning came. I awoke with the thought that Doug should call a certain business owner. This man had asked him on several occasions to work for him, but he hadn’t been ready to leave his present job and he wasn’t excited about selling the product this man’s company produced.
Doug called. The business owner said he’d been searching for a top-notch salesman. He wanted a Christian but knew he couldn’t include that in an ad so he had simply prayed for God to send the right man. Doug was that man. This job lasted only one year. But, that year was a transition period. It gave him time to prepare for a new career in finance and investing which he’s still doing today.
Fasting often moves stubborn problems. When His disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t drive demons out of an afflicted man, Jesus said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). Jesus also said that the Father rewards fasting and prayer (Matthew 6:18).
Perhaps the Lord is nudging many of His followers to fast and pray. I think He is. And I think it’s because there’s an urgency for people to hear God calling them into His Kingdom. The minutes are ratcheting up. The end is nearer than we thought.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38
Fasting remains a bit mystifying. Why do our prayers have added strength when we go without food? I don’t have an answer that satisfies. Suffice to know that God calls His people to fast. And we must obey.