Why Count the Omer? Part 2: Nine Days of Prayer
In Leviticus 23:15 God instructs us to count the seven weeks (49 days) that occur before the Day of Pentecost (the 50th day) also called the Festival of Weeks and Shavuot in Hebrew. But counting days with no explanation? Why would this be important to God and to us?
For the Israelites, it pertained mainly to their harvest cycle and offerings to be presented. For us living after the time of Yeshua, and the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, we can see the spiritual implications of this count. We know that on the 50th day after Yeshua’s resurrection, something unimaginably wonderful happened: The pouring out of the Holy Spirit not only on the disciples, but on all those who come to faith in Yeshua as the Messiah! The implications of that day reverberate even stronger in these last of the last days. The 50th day is one I want to be prepared for every year.
In Part 1, I laid out three phases of the 49-day count that we can focus on in order to be prepared for what happens once the 50th day arrives. Those phases are:
- The first 40 days
- Days 41-49
- The 50th day
What Did the Disciples Do on Days 41-49?
The first 40 days begins on the Feast of First Fruits – the same day Yeshua rose from the dead. On the 40th day, Yeshua ascended into heaven. This event is the catalyst for the second and third phases.
Yeshua’s instructions to the disciples for after his ascension were:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Acts 1:12-14 tells us that after seeing Yeshua’s ascension, the disciples and many others returned to Jerusalem as Yeshua instructed them, and “devoted themselves single-mindedly to prayer.”
This is phase two: Returning to Jerusalem and devoting themselves to prayer. This is what they did for the next nine days. They didn’t go out and read up on the seven habits of highly successful ministers, or brush up on how to speak other languages, or pass out flyers announcing that the Holy Spirit was coming. They had no idea what was ahead, let alone how to prepare for it. So they prayed. What did they pray about?
Acts 1 tells us they prayed about replacing Judas and selecting Matthias as the 12th disciple. Other than that, it doesn’t tell us. Nine days is a long time. They had no idea how long Yeshua meant when he said “in a few days.” Nine days must have seemed like an eternity as they imagined how they might be “clothed with power from on high.”
I would guess they might have prayed for knowledge and understanding of all that had just happened over the last 40 days. They might have prayed for the Holy Spirit to come. Obviously they would have prayed for guidance. We don’t know, but it didn’t really matter. The point was, they went back to Jerusalem and waited for the Holy Spirit as Yeshua had instructed them.
The 49-day Pattern
Leviticus 25 describes the Sabbath rest after both a seven-year cycle and a 49-year cycle (seven Sabbath years). It is one of the only other places in scripture where we see the number 49, and therefore, provides us clues as to the pattern of the 49-day omer count.
“Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘When you enter the land I am giving you, the land itself is to observe a Shabbat rest for Adonai. Six years you will sow your field; six years you will prune your grapevines and gather their produce. But in the seventh year is to be a Shabbat of complete rest for the land… You are to count seven Shabbats of years, seven times seven years, that is, forty-nine years…That fiftieth year will be a Jubilee for you; in that year you are not to sow, harvest what grows by itself or gather the grapes of untended vines; because it is a Jubilee.’” (Lev. 25:2-4, 8, 11-12)
Days 41-49 of the omer count include the end of week six and all of week seven. Likening our seven-week count with the seven-year Sabbath, phase two includes the end of the sixth year and all of the seventh. The seventh year was a Sabbath. This is what we see that the disciples did in the seventh week of the omer – they put down their work, came together in Jerusalem and prayed together for nine days (the last two days of the sixth week and all seven days of the seventh week).
What Can We Do During These Nine Days?
That’s our pattern to follow – devoting ourselves to prayer during those nine days. I encourage you to note these days on your calendar this year and devote yourself to praying every day about the convergence that’s about to happen, which we discussed in Part 1:
- The preparation you’ve experienced in the first 40 days
- The preparation that your harvest has experienced (those you’ll be encountering) over the first 40 days
- God’s power coming forth in full strength
Beginning the 50th Day
In Part 3, we’ll discuss the third phase – the 50th day, the Day of Pentecost. We’ll continue to use the Jubilee as our pattern of God’s intention for this day and the days that follow. Specifically Leviticus 25:20-22 that explain God’s supernatural power that comes forth when we rest and focus on him that seventh week:
“If you ask, ‘If we aren’t allowed to sow seed or harvest what our land produces, what are we going to eat the seventh year?’ then I will order my blessing on you during the sixth year, so that the land brings forth enough produce for all three years. The eighth year you will sow seed but eat the old, stored produce until the ninth year; that is, until the produce of the eighth year comes in, you will eat the old, stored food.”
The 50th day is the beginning of the eighth week of the omer. In the pattern of Jubilee, the eighth year is a year of sowing seed and enjoying the supernatural harvest of the sixth year. This is what’s ahead for us at the end of the omer count.