Fasting From Sleep: God’s Call in the Night

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Sleep is precious, and the experts tell us that we don’t get enough of it. That’s why in the past when woke up during the night for whatever reason, I’d do everything within my power to get back to sleep as quickly as possible. I’d bring the baby to bed with me. I’d ask my husband to check out the strange noises. I’d take an antacid, think happy thoughts to forget the dream, count sheep. . . whatever it took to get back to sleep. But what if it’s God who rouses you? One night I woke from a dream so vivid that I didn’t want to go back to sleep and forget it. I lay there savoring its images. In the process, God began to speak. This isn’t dream of no consequence. I’m trying to tell you something.

I got out of bed and groped in the dark for writing materials. Tiptoeing to the bathroom, I closed the door, turned on the light and scribbled what I had visualized and heard in the dream. The next night I was wide awake at 2 a.m. This time my heart beat in anticipation. God, is there a purpose in this? Yes. During the day your mind’s too cluttered to hear Me. At night I refresh and clear your mind, and then I wake you so I can fill you with My thoughts.

God brought to my attention a friend who was going through a deep spiritual battle. I interceded for her, praying like I rarely prayed during the day. This friend later confirmed a heavy burden was lifted that night. Within a few days, I began to anticipate my middle-of-the-night rendezvous with God. For several weeks, I woke every night. I found it easier to concentrate on the Holy Spirit’s voice when not fully engaged with daytime responsibilities. God continues to nudge me awake at times. When He does, I thank Him and intercede for the people He brings to mind, write down the revelations He gives, or contemplate the dream still fresh in my thoughts. I call it “sleep fasting.” This is not some kind of wacky, new fast. There is biblical precedent for it, and the practice has been a part of godly conduct since ancient times.

Sleep fasting attunes our ears to God’s nighttime songs.
The oldest example of this is in the book of Job. “But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night’” (Job 35:10). Yet what purpose could songs in the night fulfill that songs in the daytime would not?  One time a number of years ago it was Satan, not God, who woke me in the night. But God gave me a night song to escape the enemy’s schemes. My family was serving in overseas missions. We had been under a lot of stress. Our health, reputation, and goals were all under fire. I awoke that night feeling hot and sweaty, so I attempted to push the crumpled comforter off the end of the bed with my feet. However, it felt like there was a body rolled up inside. The comforter wouldn’t budge. Instantly, I knew it wasn’t a body, but a demonic presence resisting our work. I went limp and couldn’t utter a word, not even able to nudge my husband awake. had never felt the demonic so close and real before, so poised to destroy all that had been accomplished through the mission. Then a song of victory over the powers of darkness welled up in me. As the Holy Spirit brought to mind the words, the evil presence vanished. Three days later when I finally had the nerve to relate the incident to my husband, he confirmed he’d gone to bed that night in excruciating pain but hadn’t told me. In the morning when he woke, the pain was gone. Our other concerns also were resolved quickly. Waking up with a song of deliverance is confirmed in the Psalms: “By day the L ORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (42:8). Another reads, “I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired” (77:6).

Sleep fasting opens our ears to God’s voice.
“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night” (Ps. 63:6). One time a little boy named Samuel woke to the voice of God calling him. It took a while for him to pinpoint the source, since God rarely spoke in those days. However, when Samuel responded to the voice, he received foreknowledge about his guardian’s sons (1 Sam. 3:1-18).

Read about spiritual wakefulness. Click the book and then click the “Read” button.

I believe God speaks to us when we are still and quiet. My daytime prayers are often so consumed with my agenda that I can’t hear God’s voice even when I try to be still to listen. So God wakes me at night in order to have a chance to speak before my mind and mouth are in gear! I usually can stay awake to listen for only a brief time. Jesus, however, often sleep fasted all night. On at least one of those occasions, He spent the entire time in prayer. As a result, He heard His Father tell Him which 12 men to choose for traveling partners the next three years (Lk. 6:12-16).

Sleep fasting triggers supernatural intervention.
Sometimes we sleep fast in order to obtain miracles for others. The apostle Peter was once the recipient of such intercession. He was chained in prison, awaiting trial the next morning. While the church conducted an all night prayer meeting for him, Peter slept soundly. So soundly, in fact, that when an angel came in answer to the believers’ sleep fasting prayer, he had to kick him in the side just to rouse him. The chains fell off Peter’s wrists, he walked by two sets of guards, and on through an iron gate to go report to the church what God had done in answer to their prayers (Acts 12:5-12). Most of us have heard stories of prayer warriors who awoke sensing a need to pray for a struggling missionary, or a loved one in danger, or a persecuted believer facing death. No one knows just how many lives have been saved by sleep fasters’ prayers. Are you being called to sleep fast? Here are some guidelines to make those nighttimes with God more effective:

  1. Trust God to give you strength for your sleep fast.
    Many times those who fast from food say they don’t even feel hungry because God nourishes them. The same often holds for sleep fasting. If God calls you to abstain from sleep in order to pray, then you can trust Him to refresh you in the morning so you do not feel groggy and miserable.
  2. Write down what you feel God is speaking to you during the night. In the morning, however, read it prayerfully, with discernment. Always check what you’ve written with the Word to make sure it doesn’t contradict something God has already said.
  3. Don’t share every nighttime revelation with others.
    Some are just love notes and assurances between you and God. Some are intended to intensify your prayers for a person or situation. Others are to be recorded for future reference to increase your faith or that of the one you prayed for. A few are to be shared publicly. Ask God for discernment. I still enjoy my sleep as much as anyone. But I’ve come to realize that even though sleep is precious, late night prayer dates with the Lord are even more precious—to me, to Him, and to those for whom He calls me to intercede.

RUTH MELLINGER is a pastor’s wife and church secretary at Agape Fellowship of the Mennonite Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Jim, assisted national church planters in Caracas, Venezuela for three years. They have also lived in Costa Rica and Belize. Ruth enjoys writing seasonal dramas for her church.

Used by permission of Pray! Copyright © 2003, Issue 38, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. www.navpress.com.

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14 thoughts on “Fasting From Sleep: God’s Call in the Night”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this! I also sometimes don’t sleep much, it’s hard to pray during the day when I have my baby to tend to. I always find some time to pray prayers of myself and people that God has laid on my heart to do so. But not all the time I can do that, so instead of getting those few hours of sleep in, I start praying at night after my baby is asleep.

  2. I am relieved and blessed by tonight’s prayer date with Jesus after such busy days. He will refresh me in the morning of I can be bold.

  3. Very interesting read.
    I had a period of doing this but had gotten out of the practice. Then 3 nights ago I felt prompted at bedtime prayers to pray: “Lord, if you want me to resume, please wake me up”. Then thought no more about it.
    Then some hours later I heard our telephone ring out once then stop. I thought “who on Earth is ringing at this time?” Then I remembered my prayer. In view of what had happened, it was an easy 15 minutes on my knees that night.
    I`m quite excited about what this could bring. For one thing my wife has ovarian cancer. I`m sure that the spirtual affects the physical and vice-versa, and know that prayer is a vital dimension influencing her outlook too.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have felt I should sleep fast sometimes also. I find myself particularly held down by this area of the flesh and have had a questionable attitude about the whole thing. My husband is a pastor too, by the way. Blessings to you.

    • Thank you for writing an honest response, as I am much the same in regards to fasting, & being held down by this area of the flesh & corresponding attitude..Bless you.

  5. I found this very helpful. I have been asking God for answers to some of my questions about sleep. I know at times He has roused me to pray and listen to Him. I am trying to learn to discern when a dream is an instructive message from Him. I always get my clearest instructions and encouragements from the Lord when I first open my eyes in the morning. Some night I wake up and no matter what I do cannot get back to sleep. From now on I will check to see if it is the Holy Spirit calling me to prayer or special time with God rather than fight sleeplessness. Since I was a small child sleep has always been a healing force in my life. To do without sleep for me is a sacrifice. Perhaps it can become more a sacrifice of Praise.

    • I have been woke up during the early hours of the am many times too and I start praying for people God has placed in my path as I go out into the streets and witness. Also for a time, months I could call on the holy Spirit and I would be surrounded by the holy spirit, I went through a 3 month periods of hard trials at my job and could not seem to bring the presence back until I humbled myself and had a come to Jesus meeting with my Lord and asked for forgiveness and guidance in my job, Earl morn, I was woke up and was 1/2 asleep, started praying and I was shocked into an awareness that I was filled internally by the holy spirit. I knew exactly what was happening and I felt a incredible feeling of power as if I could heal with this power, like I could touch something and transfer it. It was so powerful that when it left after a few minutes, I wondered if I had that power would I be dead? It was so powerful. I lay there and thanked God and asked him, can you do that again. It happens as soon as I ask,,,it leaves about the same length as the first time. I lay there praising God, I believe that had I been in the streets and this power of the holy ghost come upon me, I could share this power by touching a broken person. Have you ever encountered this?

  6. At one point i was praying day and night, getting into his word, fasting, spreading his word and just getting close to him. But i slipped and fell back into sin and now im having a hard time getting back to what i was doing. But now i see that maybe God is trying to tell me something. But praying about it is something i should do and your article helped.

  7. The Holy Spirit prompts me to stay up all night. I write, pray, fast, and do not drink for days. God provides the gift of healing to those who would like to try. God says I am special and an up and coming pastor. All this was weird and the sleep was very uncomfortable. But people are being healed by me. So please pray for me to enjoy it more. I feel euphoric when I do all 3 for days. No food,water, or sleep. Good luck, Amen.

    • It is my perception & belief that precious Tri-unity is awakening our spirit men up in a dimension where it can really feel like time does not exist…hours pass almost too quickly as we allowing training of our soul to take a backseat and welcome in the sensation/ presence of the Holy Spirit to begin to permeate our very essence, with the purpose of joyously, spilling over onto others we come to interact with, hence them being healed. This appears to be a gift wielded thru the obedience of abstinence , a honest calling in your heart from God, a cry for you to listen and obey; a show of the fruits of God’s goodness are being poured forth from you, in a time such as this, just as he promised, His Living Water Well is activated<3 keep rolling with it, very exciting !!

      God does not fit in a Box 😀

  8. I ‘accidentally ‘ stumbled upon this article. I have been expecting these same things and others for the last 4 months. I have had an autoimmune condition for years and need lots of sleep normally, yet I’ve been able to go days and weeks on very little sleep without feeling tired at all and my symptoms are now almost completely gone. It has been wonderful to pray for those the Lord directs me to and watch what the Lord does in their lives. I’m so thankful for what the Lord is doing.

  9. This is so inspiring! I have been thinking about “sleep fasting”. This post really encourages me. God bless you!

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