Washington D.C. – The Forty Day Fast
I had just completed carrying the cross from Hollywood, California to Washington, D.C. with a wonderful team of young men.
Thirty five hundred miles and 3500 adventures later we arrived in Washington, D. C. God called me to fast and pray for 40 days at the corner of 15th and Constitution in Washington. I leaned the cross against a tree in a kind of triangle between the White House, the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument in the very heart of our nation and went without food for 40 days. It was an awesome time of prayer and spiritual empowerment as I stayed there day and night in the heat and rain with the poor and powerful of America.
A 40-day fast is truly an experience that few have ever experienced.
It was my desire to have a great Jesus Rally in Washington, D. C. After a 24 hour period of prayer and fasting at last it was going to happen. The devil took another swing at my mission. A slight stroke, the only one I had since I started my walk. It left me numb and affected my speech. Friends urged me to go to the hospital, but God urged me to preach, so I began, haltingly at first, but then as if my obedience to Him was recognized, I began preaching with great power. Following this sermon God led me to my 40-day fast and prayer with nothing to eat and only water to drink.
We set up our home on the small grassy strip between the sidewalk and street, a place about four feet wide. We used the restrooms at the Department of Commerce Building that was next to us. At night we slept in sleeping bags. In the rain we sat on
some boards we put down. Crowds of people began to visit us. The newspapers had told of our fast and reported our phone number. There was a public telephone just a few feet from us and I told the press that if anyone had a need they could call that number. If others wanted to help they could call and we would match the need with a provider. Soon the phone number had spread and the phone was in constant use. Praise God! Other people were coming to us in person. There was no time to sleep. We finally had to call for more workers so we would have 24-hour helpers in our ministry. Jim McPheeters stayed with us. Dale Larson came from my office in Los Angeles to help and Leo Humphrey, my dear brother who worked with me in Hollywood years before, flew in from New Orleans. It was a great team on the street comer and a wonderful time.
The hungry in D.C. came to get fed. We had parked our van nearby and gave peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to anyone who was hungry .The lost came to be saved and we saw many converted each day. The skeptics and atheists came to question or to debate. The Christians came to help in witnessing. Each night at 8:00 I would preach or teach, then share personally with people almost non stop day and night. Again I was under the cross, not just preaching under it, or carrying it on my shoulder, but living under it.
Now let me say something about fasting. Many times I had fasted three days, once 28 days, once 40. These are my observations.
The body is designed for a perfect 40-day fast. A doctor couple checked me almost every day. We were in perfect shape during the entire fast. We each lost about a pound a day. If a person is in good health, the human body has a store of the proper minerals, etc., so that no harm is done to the body. After 40 days the body will begin to quickly deteriorate.
Now, I ‘m not recommending a 4-day fast, nor am I a doctor. I am only speaking from my experience.
After about three or four days, the hunger pains go away. The stomach is coated with a chemical lining to protect it. There is a slight bad breath. The worst time I have found in a fast is the first two or three days, then it’s better. From about five to seven days there seems to be a great feeling of weakness mixed with strength, but after about 13 days the body has been cleansed of all the waste and it receives a freshness and cleanliness along with energy that is very constant and strong.The mind is clear and thoughts begin to expand. With each passing day ideas intensify greatly and the human world around becomes less important. Thoughts get higher and higher. I can think on any subject as long as I want to without my mind wandering off at all. I can think, remember and explore all thoughts about any subject, and comprehend much better than normal. As a matter of fact, the two long fasts were the best time for Bible study that I have ever experienced in my life.
One must be careful because the chemical changes in the stomach produce hallucinations. Fasting is a spiritual experience. The body and mind are cleansed and cleared. The great spiritual leaders fasted for long periods. Moses on Mount Sinai for 40 days, Jesus in the wilderness, Mohammed, Buddha, Gandhi. If the person fasting is not totally anchored in the Bible, solid in Jesus, and filled with the Holy Spirit, I do believe the devil, by his demon spirits, can come in and possess that person. This is why so many of the world’s religions sprang out of fasting. Long fasts are so powerful that I would never recommend them to the novice, only those of great spiritual maturity. My two long fasts were both public, so it kept me in contact with the real world and strong believers surrounded me.
This 40-day fast on the streets of Washington, D.C. at the seat of world power was enough to crush the heart. The burden of the lost world gripped my heart. The futility of human effort was so clear, the necessity of God in our lives is beyond doubt, but the laborers are so few. Who will care, live and speak the message and life of Jesus? I realized that God had expanded my capacity and vision for the trip. He had taken me into the heart of America. We had lived with the blacks, Indians, southerners, northerners, young, old, hippies, religious, secular, atheists and preachers who had become our friends. We were with the rich and the poor, the drug addicts and the drunks, the educated and the hateful. God had stretched me big enough to have America inside of me, to feel its dreams and pains, its hopes and despair. I had a taste of the entire church in America, not just the Baptist church of my past, but all the groups, cultures and traditions. I was now seeking the true lifestyle of Jesus without cultural distortions. God had freed me from provincial thinking and had hurled me out into the world and this was only the beginning. For many, to cross America on foot with a cross would be their ultimate highlight. To me, it was only one stage of an unfolding adventure of life with Jesus, my Lord.
There are many strange stories people tell about fasting. They say your teeth will fall out… your hair will fall out. I’ve never experienced anything like that.
My children Gina, Joel and Joy spent much time at the fast with me. They were a great help.
After my 28-day fast on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip I ate fried chicken for my first meal. At the end of my 40-day fast, I went to a restaurant and ate roast beef and had no problem. I was not sick. I felt great.
The fast and the prayer time with the Father gave me a burning desire for America and the entire world. My compassion for the lost was expanded beyond human reason.
Thanks to all the wonderful team that crossed America with me. God bless you all. Thanks to the wonderful people we met along the way. Thanks to the news media and their wonderful coverage of the cross.
At the time I carried the cross across the USA I did not know I would be carrying the cross on around the world. I went back to Hollywood to continue ministering on the Sunset Strip and also doing Jesus rallies and outreaches all over America.
It was only in the summer of 1971 that Jesus called me to go on carrying the cross overseas in nation after nation. I left within a few weeks for England and the world.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt