The Daniel Fast

I’ve done my best not to talk about it, because the Bible is pretty clear that were not supposed to make a big of doing it, but for the past 3 weeks we’ve been fasting. And not just Nicole and I — most of our church has been on a Daniel Fast. In general this means that we don’t eat meat, dairy, bread, sugar, caffeine, salt, pasta… pretty much anything good. Nic and I have been doing a slightly modified version — she’s breast feeding Benjamin, so she kept poultry, and leaving milk out of my diet started doing horrible things to the inside of my mouth, so we added that back in, and we both decided to keep fish for the protein (which is still a sacrifice, cause I hate fish). Aside from that, we’ve successfully eschewed all the good tasting foods for 20 days. Tomorrow at lunch will be 21, and we’ll celebrate by eating burgers until we can’t move, and then eating some more.

We, as a church, were challenged by our pastor to do this fast, so that we could re-direct our hunger towards God. This isn’t the first time he’s challenged me on it. A couple months ago in staff meeting, he excitedly told us all about this great new thing he was doing: “not eating!!” and wouldn’t we like to try it?! Of course I missed the point at the time — I like food. But when he challenged the church, he gave us a much better explanation of it. And, having never fasted before, we figured we’d take the challenge and see what God would do.

So that’s the background. The honest reality is, even though I’ve definitely been hungry, and its definitely made me talk to God more — mostly thoughts like “Dear God, I could really go for a steak right now” — I don’t feel like I’ve gotten any closer to Him. We were told if we wanted to experience God in an exciting new way, we should fast. But all I’ve really experienced is a feeling like there’s a hole in my stomach. People around me talk about what they’re learning through this, or how God is changing them, and I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong.

And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. God doesn’t work on-demand, and just because we’re not eating, doesn’t mean God has to do amazing things in our lives. I know there are some for whom this is a huge sacrifice or a huge challenge, and I’m confident that God will honor them in a way that is appropriate to where they are in their walk in life. But I’m equally aware that God hasn’t worked any miracles in me or through me in the past 21 days.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not glad I did this. I am, in fact, very satisfied that I made it to 20 days — with or without a revolution in my life. And for those of you who disciplined yourselves through this fast, and didn’t feel the Holy Spirit moving, let me tell you why this was worth it. And I should note here, that this isn’t my discovery — rather, God hit me in the face with it during my devotions a couple days ago, and I’ve been waiting until the fast was over to post it. From My Utmost for His Highest (emphasis mine)…

. . . add to your faith virtue . . . —2 Peter 1:5

Add means that we have to do something. We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves— God does that. But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. We must “work out” our “own salvation” which God has worked in us (Philippians 2:12). Add means that we must get into the habit of doing things, and in the initial stages that is difficult. To take the initiative is to make a beginning— to instruct yourself in the way you must go.

Faith without works isn’t worth much. It’s great to believe in something, but if you don’t act on it, it’s not very valuable. The fact is, many of the great leaders in the Bible had developed the discipline of fasting. God’s Word does not say that every time they fasted, a miracle happened. Sometimes it did, and we have many of those occasions recorded. But sometimes the Bible simply states that someone fasted. Great leaders, strong Christians in the Bible added to their faith with a humble act of obedience called fasting. And this is the important thing for me about this fast: obedience.

God doesn’t say: obey me, and I will make your life full of sunbeams and roses. He says: obey me.
He doesn’t promise that if you don’t eat meat, you’ll suddenly get a halo over your head. But He does promise to complete the good work He has started in you.

Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well. Take the initiative— stop hesitating— take the first step. Be determined to act immediately in faith on what God says to you when He speaks, and never reconsider or change your initial decisions. If you hesitate when God tells you to do something, you are being careless, spurning the grace in which you stand.

We took up this fast expecting God to do something great. So far there are no angels singing heavenly hymns behind me. But I am proud that I have learned a discipline that Daniel, and Esther and even Jesus applied to their own spiritual lives. This is a tool in my arsenal now that I know how to use. It’s actually strange that I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years, and I’ve never learned to fast before… I knew the way — the Bible talks about it all over the place. But now that I’ve learned this discipline, when God tells me to fast, I know that I can act immediately on His instruction.

We have to get into the habit of carefully listening to God about everything, forming the habit of finding out what He says and heeding it. If, when a crisis comes, we instinctively turn to God, we will know that the habit has been formed in us.

There was no crisis in my life when I started this fast. Things are pretty good, and I’m pretty blessed. I didn’t need a miracle, and God didn’t deliver one. But I did need to learn how to act on my faith — so that when a crisis does come, I will know how to humble myself and trust Him.

But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves…We have to take the initiative where we are, not where we have not yet been.

God doesn’t require us to fast. It’s not a prerequisite for getting into heaven, or to having a relationship with him. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t sanctify ourselves through fasting. Rather, it’s a habit we take the initiative to develop, because God develops our character through obedience.

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7 thoughts on “The Daniel Fast

  1. Great article! I know exactly what you mean. I’ve only fasted a couple times (7 day fasts) and on the first one a couple years ago God met me in a way I cannot even describe.

    On my second one..

    Had everything from Jehovas witnesses coming to my door, to attacks of unbelief. It litteraly felt like there was no God, lol. It was hard.

    Now, I’m starting another fast! Going on my 1st hour soon..woot!!

  2. I only did a partial daniel fast, ate chicken at two meals, and salads, but I’m already seeing how your article is right. God honors obedience, and great doors will be opened for that obedience.

    take care & God Bless,
    sam

  3. New Life Publishing has announced that it is in the final review and editorial stages of the upcoming “The Daniel’s Fast Cookbook.”

    The authors, Grace Bass, a church planter from Tempe, Arizona, and Lynda Anderson, a gourmet chef from Lago Vista, Texas have personally developed and prepared each of the recipes in the cookbook. “A lot of people are confused about what a Daniel Fast really is,” said Grace Bass, “I’ve seen other Daniel Fast themed cookbooks that use dairy products – including cheese – vinegar, and other types of foods typically not allowed on the fast. One of the goals of our cookbook is to not only provide delicious tasting recipes, but to educate people on what a true, biblical Daniel Fast really is.”

    Lynda Anderson, co-author of “The Daniel’s Fast Cookbook” and gourmet chef with over forty-years experience in preparing delicious and compelling dishes, says “this cookbook is part of my contribution to the Body of Christ, I hope it will serve as an avenue for others to draw themselves closer to our Lord.”

    The Daniel’s Fast Cookbook will be available online at http://www.danielsfastcookbook.com in January 2008. “We are working out the distribution chain so the book will also be available at major online booksellers, and in Christian bookstores throughout the country”, said Grace Bass. The website contains a lot of free information about what a Daniel Fast is, the foods typically allowed and other similar information. In addition we offer several free Daniel Fast recipes and an online community (message forum) for partakers of the Daniel Fast.

  4. I would like to see where it said Daniel fasted. It stated he refrain from the king’s food. Fasting is abstaining from food for a period of time. Jesus went without food for forty days, but it doesn’t say He didn’t drink water. Man make their own rules when it comes certain things to suit man’s fancy. They should say we are going on a Daniel’s Diet, because he did eat. I’ve fasted before and Jesus answered my request. When we truly be committed to a complete fast, Jesus is pleased when our hearts are right.

  5. I agree that the ‘Daniel Diet’ would probably be a more accurate phrase — and I have heard it called that before.

    I think, more broadly, the term “fasting” is used to refer to abstaining — not just from food — but from something that is a normal part of your life, so that in its absence you can focus on God, and by its exclusion, you can humble yourself before Him.

    In this case it might be most accurate to say “Fasting from my normal diet by adopting one that is similar to the diet Daniel adhered to…” But that’s not quite as catchy, is it?

    PS: Its pretty cool that this old post has legs again. Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. It is not recommended to break a fast with a large meal, especially burgers or any kind of meat! It could be very harmful to your system. I suggest you research the effect of fasting on the body before you fast the next time. In fact, based on what you say you ate, it didn’t seem like much of a fast. Nursing mothers probably should not fast at all.

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