Seven Days Fasting and Prayer
July 19 – 26, 1986
Capetown is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its high mountains, fabulous beaches, huge port, lovely office buildings, plush greenery of trees, flowers, and grass. It also contains some of South Africans neediest areas like the squatter camp at Crossroads.
The Lord burdened me to have the prayer and fast in front of the beautiful historic City Hall in an area called The Parade. Just behind City Hall is a beautiful view of famous Table Mountain. Office buildings are on one side, the bus/train station is in front; the oldest military fort in South Africa is on the other side. This place had once been the beach where the first settlers arrived, the first preachers came, and the first cross arrived. Now the cross had arrived again. We made our home on the steps of a large statue erected by the English years ago, a statue of Edward VII. I did not realize it at the time but at this statue most of the drunks, prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, and homeless travelers congregated. When Joshua and I arrived with the cross, the smell was almost unbearable. It reeked with the smell of urine and vomit and yet just a few feet away, there are famous flower stalls that are open until midnight every night. It was quite a place to make one’s home.
In the wintertime, the weather in Capetown is usually cold, rainy and windy, broken with short periods of sunshine. Joshua and I leaned our crosses against the statue and invited the group of Christians that were there to greet us to pray with us. Soon, crowds began to gather. Capetown is well known for its huge number of colored people, resulting from the whites of the past intermarrying with the local blacks. Now, I do not in any way like to keep using racial terms to identify people and I have sought in the book to keep those distinctions to a minimum. However, in South Africa, each person has been identified with a certain racial classification by the government as to whether they were white, colored, Indian or black. Even the housing regulations have been based upon these groupings. This is South Africans largest area of coloreds. A beautiful crowd of people gathered as we were having prayer early this first night. All of a sudden, the lights went off. This entire area of the city was blacked out. The police said that a major switch had blown. I guess the holy surge of fire from heaven was too much. Ha!
In Capetown we also have another big clock that rings from City Hall every quarter hour. It was the same in Johannesburg and Durban. I can’t believe it. Every fifteen minutes for twenty-one days and nights I have heard the chimes. It seems as though I could not live without the ringing of the bells.
In Capetown, because of the massive number of homeless people, (as this was shortly after the disastrous rioting and fighting in the black area of Crossroads and KCT where there were thousands of shacks burned down in a power struggle between various black factions and tribal groupings) to allow people to stay and sleep, we would have faced massive difficulties of logistics. So here, unlike Johannesburg and Durban, those who stayed the night all stayed awake praying and ministering as Joshua and I used our newly arrived Landrover camper which was parked only a few feet away as our place to sleep late at night.
My heart is broken weeing so many children who live day and night on the streets. We have been trying to help some. There are places that we can take every one of the street children to live but shockingly the problem is that they could have a place to stay but they run away to live deliberately on these streets. That is the same problem with alcoholics and others that were here at night. We can take them to places where they can be cared for but the problem is in the heart, which is typical of other big cities around the world. But we are seeing some converted and changed and we are placing them in various centers for help.
Once today, two men staggered up, sat down and leaned against the cross. I said, “Do you know what that is?” They looked. It was seven o’clock in the morning. They didn’t even know that they had sat down against the cross. I explained the life of Jesus and invited them to Christ. Soon they both walked away. Then, one turned, rushed back to me and said, “I am sick of my life and I can’t go on.” He was converted. This morning one man took five new converts to his church.
I moved Loretaq, my parrot, to my Landover and now she is much happier to be near me. The sun is shining and I sit here for a quiet moment. The heat feels so good. The warmth of the sun speaks to the seeds and life springs forth. Sprints grow and burst through the soil. Soon green, then flowers, fruit as the cycle has been for ages. “Oh Lord, may Thy Son Jesus shine over South Africa warming the hearts, bringing forth the seeds of love bearing the fruit of peace, justice and blessings. Oh, I do love the warmth of the sun, the chilling coolness of the night, the smells and sounds of life. This is truly it. The cross in the crossroads of life. Life at its worst and its best. Lord help me to make it through, this has been a real mission.”
As I was sitting here writing these words in my diary, a South African television station came to film us again. They began to film me as I sat writing and then I saw an old man with only one eye who could barely walk with a slow shuffle. I could not stand to see him pass by. I got up, introduced myself to him and I read to him John 15:15 where Jesus said that He would be our Friend. I spoke to the man for a good while and then we prayed together. I saw a lovely girl who had been coming to pray and witness. She took the old man by his arm and helped him to sit down. She sat down with a friend of hers on the pavement in front of him and there this beautiful girl with blond hair, about twenty years old, sat talking to an old man who had no friends, who walked with a shuffle, who smelled like urine, and had one eye. This was a most beautiful sight. This is what life is about.
Later this afternoon, about 3:30, we were having prayer with a large group that had gathered. A lovely lady called for me to come to her as she stood at the edge of the crowd. When I got near her, she pulled me toward a man and a woman who were standing a short ways away. “Help me,” she whispered. When I arrived at the couple, I noticed that the lady was wrestling to hold the man’s hands down. She said, “Get the knife, get the knife,” and then I saw this open knife with its flashing steel blade. I put my hand on the man’s shoulder, slowly pushed the lady away and looked into the man’s eyes.” I said, “In the name of Jesus, hand me the knife.” The man was weeping and trembling in rage. “I want revenge. I want to kill someone. My daughter was killed last Friday. I came here to kill someone but I saw the cross and I remember your son, a little boy, carrying his cross.”
He looked and saw Joshua. “There! That’s the one, that’s the boy. Oh God, forgive me, I need Jesus ” He was shaking in hate. I put my hand on his hand and lifted the knife as his grip loosened. “Here, come with me to the cross.” The crowd of people moved back as they saw this knife wielding man of revenge. Joshua and I prayed with him and he gave his life to Christ. He said, I don’t hate any more. I love everyone. If it hadn’t been for the cross, I would have killed someone.” The SABC television cameras had filmed this event. Some good Christian friends sat down with the man to do counseling and to help follow up.
One of the tragedies of human existence is the vicious desire for revenge and the inability of so many people to forgive. I have seen this over and over again. The evil act of one person justifies the evil act of another until that which is evil becomes normal and good and justifiable. As long as Northern Ireland lives in the memory of past injustices, there will be no peace today. As long as Lebanon seeks revenge for each cycle of killing, it is unending. If there are any two peoples that have suffered injustice throughout the years, it is the Jews and the Palestinians and yet because of unforgiveness and the spirit of revenge and payback, the bloody cycle continues. And so here, whether it be black tribal conflict or military conflict or discrimination and prejudice, until there is a time when one forgives no matter how great the atrocity there can be no peace. The Christian cannot live with the injustices and the dishonor that was brought upon Christ 2,000 years ago by those responsible, nor can the Jews live without forgiveness concerning the atrocities of World War II, nor can the Indians of America live today upon the past injustices, nor can Americans live out today the atrocities and bitterness of our bloody civil war or the days of inhuman slavery in the South. This man’s freedom from hatred and revenge at the cross offers hope for a troubled world today because at the cross we find reconciliation for this is the universes greatest revelation. God offers peace and reconciliation, and the hope to the human race of coming into His family instead of pouring out revenge and destruction.
The television crew wanted me to go with the cross up to the top of Table Mountain, which overlooks all of Capetown. The mountain is 3,550 feet high and we had to ride to the top in a cable car. It was a beautiful view as the sun went down to a silvery sunset and we looked out over the city and prayed. How beautiful yet how great the need. These two thoughts filled my mind as we prayed through the night
I will not attempt to give the daily events of my time in Capetown but simply to give a summary.
It was a glorious time of prayer and fasting and ministry. Some of the most beautiful Christians stayed with us in shifts day and night in very difficult weather conditions. The crowds were not as large as Johannesburg and Durban but the flow of people was constant with sometimes as many people gathered at three o’clock in the morning as in the day at noon. We had a very special ministry to the alcoholic and street people seeing many converted and leaving to become involved in churches and Bible studies. But one thing amazed me. I did not see one healing in Capetown and had only one person ask me to pray for them to be physically healed. I have no explanation. Even up to the last moment in Durban, people were being healed and hundreds of people were around begging for prayer and yet Capetown was like an entirely different country. The conviction of the Holy Spirit was just as great in Capetown but the manifestation of the glory of God was different.
I sit still
As the world vibrated around me
The cross stands in the city center
The sounds of birds—
And the chimes of the clock
On the quarter hour all make
Johannesburg, Durban and Capetown
Around the cross
Every color – language – and condition
The birds seem oblivious to
The problems the political leaders squabble about
I sit here contemplating it all
Just a day or so before the fast ended, I was sitting by the cross in the cold wind and rain. It was a beautiful time to pray, as most people were not here in such weather. My mind was clear. The manifestation of the glory of God was so overwhelming. This was about the 19th or 20th day that I’d been fasting and even though I had eaten a little between each seven day fast, I think the condition of my body and mind was equivalent to about 12-14 days had I been fasting continuously. Let me say something about fasting.
Fasting over long periods of time is a spiritual experience. Now I didn’t say that it was necessarily a Christian experience. It can and should be but the effect of fasting upon the mind and person is powerful, no matter who they may be. Almost all of the world’s greatest spiritual and religious leaders have fasted for long periods of time. Moses fasted for forty days, Jesus fasted for forty days, and other religious leaders have traditionally fasted. When one fasts, it is imperative that they constantly be in the Word of God, the Bible, lest they be deceived by evil spirits and possessed with evil, even in the cloak of goodness. I fasted once in Hollywood, California for twenty-eight days with just water in my struggle to maintain our street ministry in Hollywood. I fasted in Washington D.C. for forty days as I prayed for our nation and the cleansing of it in Washington. I also fasted in Northern Ireland in the middle of the troubles there for three days and nights. After about ten to twelve days of fasting, the mind and body become incredibly clear; I can think on any subject as long as I want to without my mind drifting. Concentration is incredible. After approximately one to three days, all hunger pains are gone because the stomach has formed a chemical coating to protect it from the acids that would normally be used to digest food. As this book is not a theological textbook, I shall not try to give all Bible references to fasting, except to say that fasting was a normal Biblical principle that often happened. Any good Bible concordance will list all references to fasting. Fasting helps purify the body and the mind. A partial list of some who fasted is:
Moses – Exodus 34:27 & 28
The Israelites – Leviticus 16:29 I Samuel 7:5 & 6
David – II Samuel 1:11 & 12
Elijah — I Kings 19:2 & 8
Nehemiah – Nehemiah 1:4
Daniel – Daniel 9:3 & 4 Daniel 10:2 & 3
Anna – Luke 2:36 & 37
The disciples of Jesus and John – Matthew 9:14
Jesus – Matthew 4:1 & 2
Paul – Acts 14:23
Cornelius – Acts 10:30
Jesus said in Matthew 17:21, “This kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting.” Throughout the Bible, there are numerous declarations of where people repented and fasted or fasted and were cleansed and empowered. This twenty-one days of fasting and prayer for me was in obedience to the direct call of God. I did it in obedience. I do not try to analyze it. I simply have tried to live it. I know God has heard our prayers and not just the prayers of those who have gathered around this physical cross but others by the millions in South Africa that are praying in their churches, homes and prayer groups; through television programs in the West such as Trinity Broadcasting and CBN, Kenneth Copeland, Richard Roberts, and numerous others. Tens of millions of people have been mobilized to pray for South Africa at this time.
As I sat in the cold rain contemplating the things of God, I suddenly said to the Lord, “Oh God, show me something profound, something deeper than I’ve ever thought about before, something I need, something that is the ultimate in understanding and revelation that I have been blinded to.” The words from John, the fourth chapter, verses twenty-three and twenty-four came to my mind: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” These words staggered me. I had never really dwelt on them, even though I had preached so many sermons from this very chapter. I was now thinking differently than I had ever thought about this particular passage before. What does it mean worship in spirit and in truth? Jesus said that from then on, that’s how we were to worship and yet I had never really studied what that meant. Then I began to see an unfolding picture in my mind. Jesus said God is a Spirit. God is Spirit. What does that mean? What is Spirit? Spirit is presence, not a term, it is the presence of God. God said to Moses in Exodus 33:14, “My presence shall go with thee.” Jesus said we must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. This means that where God’s Spirit is, His presence is. Where God’s presence is, His Spirit is and where His Spirit is, His presence is. I have presence. I occupy space where my body is. That is my physical presence. If someone is sitting near me talking to me they would say, “I am in the presence of Arthur Blessitt.” I have a presence but God also has a presence. It is where His Spirit is. So true worship then is when we are in His presence with our presence. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” We are to worship in His presence. He is here to those who are born into his kingdom we are with Him. His presence is deep, personal, imminent and always available to the believer. Wherever I am, God is. You can come into my presence but you can come into God’s presence and live in His presence. As we worship Him in spirit, we recognize His presence. Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman as the story is described in John the fourth chapter. They had their special mountain where they felt that God was. As she said in verse twenty, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain and You say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” For this woman and most of the people of her day, the concept was that God’s presence inhabited a certain geographical place. Jesus was now saying no, not in that mountain, nor in Jerusalem shall we worship the Father but from now on, the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Jesus was saying now you can worship Him anywhere. He will be with us, not a geographical location, but His Spirit, His presence, will be wherever you are. When God is present, all God is present. There is no part of God, only God. He is all the time. It is we who are such narrow funnels that little manifestation of His presence and Spirit is revealed. The problem is not that God in all His glory and works is not present, but that we limit the manifestation of His presence. God is a Spirit. We must be present in His presence. This is truly worship. Again the Bible says He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). His presence is within our praises while we are within His presence. He is in us while we are in Him. The extent of the revelation of His glorious presence is available only to them that are available and capable of receiving it. The depth of which we may know the intimate heart of God is also based upon our capacity and sensitivity to receive it.
God had me contemplate upon the Spirit throughout the afternoon and early night. Then I moved on to the next word TRUTH. Jesus said we must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. What does that word truth mean? In essence, truth means total honesty. Truth is absolute revealing. Truth means nothing concealed or covered, naked like Adam and Eve. The first man God ever spoke to was unclothed. The first woman God ever spoke to was unclothed. The first couple God ever spoke to was unclothed. God walked with them in the Garden. He talked with them. They were together naked in the presence of God. This was true worship and this is what we are to be, Jesus said. But something happened. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, being deceived by Satan, the first thing that happened was they knew that they were naked and they made a covering of fig leaves. Then they hid from the presence of God. The Lord came walking in the Garden and called unto Adam. “Where art thou?” Adam said, “I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.” And God said, “Who told you that you were naked?” Adam and Eve had never seen any clothes. They had never heard of clothes. And God said who told you you were naked? It was Satan; and people have from that time until this, been trying to cover up and hide from God. Notice how this woman told the truth, yet lied. In verse fifteen, the woman said to Jesus: “Give me this water that I thirst not neither come here to draw” as Jesus had told her that He had living water. Now she wanted what Jesus had to offer but in order to receive it, she had to come in truth. Therefore, Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come here.”
The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said, “You have well said ‘I have no husband’ (You told the truth). For you have had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband. In that you told the truth.” Now here, you see the typical manifestation of telling the truth and lying at the same time. Technically, she told the truth. ‘I have no husband,’ but basically, Christ was revealing to her that He wanted openness and truth, real truth not technical truth because in essence she had lied. She had had five husbands and was now living with a man though not technically her husband. She got the point immediately because she said, “I perceive that You are a prophet,” because now she was dealing with someone who knew her, not just heard her words. That is what truth is. Truth is open, exposed, with no covering of our will, mind, or motive. If I were to call my wife on the telephone from here and ask her how she is, she could say, “Fine” and I would believe her and accept that she told the truth. But she could have had an accident and broken her legs and be in a cast in great pain, but since I am not in her presence, I only have her words and in a technical sense, she might be fine, but not truly fine in the greater meaning of the word. If I were present with her, she could not conceal that condition. That is how we are to worship in spirit and in truth. We worship in His presence (Spirit), uncovered and unashamed (truth). Jesus was showing her that God’s presence was not in that mountain or in Jerusalem but that the temple of God’s presence shall be within you. The holy of holies of God’s presence will be your heart. (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
This woman did recognize the presence of God and did comprehend the truth of her condition, Jesus revealed something to the woman that He did not even say to the disciples when she asked about the Messiah. Jesus said, “I that speak to you am He.” After the resurrection of Jesus, as two of the disciples were on the road to the village of Emmaus, Jesus also joined them along the road and they spoke to Him. He taught them all the things from Moses through the prophets concerning the Christ. Finally, when they arrived at the house in the evening, Jesus sat down and joined them for the meal. Jesus took the bread and blessed it and gave it to them, their eyes were opened and they knew Him. Jesus had been with them along the road that day but they had not worshiped Him. Their hearts were sad because they thought He was still in the tomb. True worship is the recognition of His presence in our presence and the understanding that He knows us and we are open and free and uncovered with Him. The amazing concluding work is this that Jesus said, “The Father seeketh such to worship Him.” God is looking for those who will worship in His presence, in His spirit and truth with nothing hidden. If we reveal ourselves, He will reveal Himself.
On the final Saturday morning, just before we concluded the fast, a policeman who was on duty in our general area came up and made this comment to me: “When you walk all around this area, it’s normal, but when people go there (pointing towards the steps of the statue where the cross stood), then you mean business.” Late one evening, an old drunk man staggered up as we were sitting in quiet prayer. He hollered out very loudly, “Why are you fools gathered around Edward the VII?” as he gazed up at the statue. “Why, he’s been dead long ago.” One of the men got up and began sharing Christ with him. I sat there rejoicing. Praise God, we’re serving a living and resurrected Christ. He’s alive in this world today. We know Him and yet for so many around, they are blinded to His presence and power. Hallelujah, He’s alive!
As a great crowd gathered to close out the 21 days of fasting and prayer, we had another great footwashing service but this time in the open air around the cross. Again, it was people of all races. It was glorious beyond words. I closed by reading these words from the book of Numbers 6:23-26: “As the Lord spoke to Moses saying, Like this you shall bless the children of Israel (South Africa). say unto them: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”