The witching hour, or the devil’s hour, is a term that became popular in 1835 to define the time late at night when the powers of darkness are believed to be the strongest. According to the lore, it is during the witching hour that a magician, demon, or witch is at the height of her powers and supernatural beings are the most active. While the origin of the idea of a witching hour is unclear, Shakespeare alluded to the concept in his play Hamlet: “ˈTis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world” (III:ii). While most refer to the hours between 2:00 and 4:00 AM as the witching hour, Hamlet’s designated “witching time of night” was midnight.
Psychological literature records that the hours between midnight and 4:00 AM are the peak hours for reports of supernatural activity, with the hour between 3:00 and 4:00 being the strongest. For a time the Catholic Church forbade women to be out between 3:00 and 4:00 AM. Women who disregarded that rule were viewed with suspicion by the religious establishment. Early belief in the witching hour suggested that early in the morning is when the least amount of prayer was being offered, thereby releasing the spirits of darkness to do their work unhindered by divine intervention. More recently, the hours between midnight and 2:00 AM are considered the witching hour.
Despite the common—and often wild—speculation about the witching hour or the devil’s hour, there is nothing in the Bible to substantiate the idea. When Jesus was arrested, He said to the mob, “This is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53), but this has nothing to do with the concept of a witching hour. Jesus was not speaking of an actual time of day; He was simply stating that the forces of darkness had been allowed to arrest Him. Had they not been granted divine permission to act, the temple leaders would have been powerless to harm the Son of God.
Whether or not there is indeed a witching hour is not of real concern to Christians. When we surrender our lives to the lordship of Jesus, we overcome whatever powers of darkness that held us captive. The power of the blood of Christ breaks any chains that Satan had used to bind us. Whether the clock says it’s 3:00 AM or 3:00 PM, evil forces have no hold on us. We have the same access to God in the middle of the night as we do in the daytime. Psalm 139:12 is a good prayer for those who wake up afraid: “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
We must also remember that the “witching hour” in our time zone is broad daylight somewhere else. God does not sleep or get distracted simply because in our part of the world it is 3:00 AM (Psalm 121:3–4; Daniel 2:22). Even when we are asleep, the Lord is awake and on guard (Isaiah 27:3).
One reason people tend to believe in the idea of a witching hour is that so much evil goes on during the darkness of night. We wake up in the morning to learn of rapes, robberies, drug deals, and murders that happened while we slept. It seems to us that Satan must have been more active during that time. But we should remember that every evil act had a human choice behind it. Jesus said, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:19–20). As much as we’d like to blame Satan for all the world’s ills, the fact is that human beings choose their own evil. Much of what is done during the “witching hour” is done from human hearts dedicated to the goals of Satan (see Matthew 15:18–19; John 8:44).
Sometimes, the Lord may wake us up in the night to intercede for something we do not yet know about. Rather than lie in bed frightened of an imaginary witching hour, we can use our wakeful times to voice praise to God. We can pray for people who come to mind, knowing that the Lord of the universe is as active in the middle of the night as He is at any other time. We should see the early morning hours not as a “witching hour,” but as a “watching hour,” as Jesus asked His disciples to do. The night before He went to the cross, Jesus asked them to “watch with me” (Mark 14:37–38). He asks us to do the same. If we happen to be awake in the middle of the night, we can use that time to purify our hearts before Him and pray for the coming day that we will not “enter into temptation” (Mark 14:37). In that way, we can redeem what Satan may have intended for evil and let God use it for good (see Genesis 50:20).