Where does the Daniel Fast come from?
During the summer of 2003 France was hit by a terrible heat wave resulting in the deaths of several thousand people. In this time of national suffering we became painfully aware of the mediocre spiritual condition of His church and that we needed to plead with Him to lift us out of our apathy.
At this same time several very key figures in the Body of Christ passed away and we interpreted this as a new season coming upon the Church of Jesus Christ. These events brought us to the conclusion that we should call a Church-wide fast, the first in our history. As we sought the Lord for direction on how to do this, we stumbled upon what is often referred to as the Daniel Fast, or a three-week “partial fast.”
During those days very few people were talking about partial fasting. And many to this day would like to debate with me on its virtues. Nevertheless, there are two texts that we use which come from the book of the prophet Daniel. In chapter 1 verses 8 to 12 the young man Daniel decided to abstain from meat, delicacies and wine. In chapter 10 verses 2 and 3 Daniel again engaged in a partial fast and this time for 21 days. We call this a Daniel Fast, NOT because we are convinced that this is exactly how Daniel did it, but because of the two texts taken from the book of Daniel.
The results of the fast were nothing less than phenomenal! By the second week of the fast testimonies started pouring in of people having real life-changing encounters with the Holy Spirit; the power of habitual sin was being broken; people who had sought deliverance for years were getting set free. And in addition to this marriages were being healed; families were being put in order; and the church was discovering a new spiritual energy!
Since that first year we have done a Daniel Fast every autumn. We have at times feared that it would become nothing more than a religious exercise. But to our amazement, the fast has become a part of the culture of our church. By June people are already talking about the autumn fast with anticipation!
We also discovered that the Biblical Feasts of Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Feast of Atonement), and Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles) follow very appropriately the same themes that the Spirit of God has given us for the fast. As we have learned to honor the God of the Feasts we have seen even more of His power released through this fast. Hence, we have incorporated most of the principles found in these important Biblical events.
We pray that this fast would be a turning point in your life as it has been in ours and in the lives of many others.
The fast of food
The Book of Daniel makes reference to the king’s delicacies. But there is no Biblical explanation as to what that actually entailed. Consequently, the basic rule of thumb that we propose is that one abstains from all food products originating from an animal as well as all sweets and all forms of alcohol. Some people will eat only raw fruits and vegetables; and others will abstain from all “prepared foods” such as foods canned or frozen. The main thing to remember is that you want to “detox” your body from all the junk you usually feed it.
You should do your best to eat “whole” foods as opposed to prepackaged meals, like “micro-wave” meals. The closer the food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. In the Daniel Fast we abstain from dairy products because they come from animals. However, there are very healthy alternatives. And remember, a cow’s milk was intended for baby cows, not for people! And there are other sources of calcium besides milk and cheese that are very easy to come by. So be resourceful. There is really no reason why children and pregnant women can’t follow the Daniel Fast if they do it with wisdom.
Stay away from sugar! It’s in nearly everything we eat. Try and buy bread and cereal that doesn’t have sugar in it. And by all means don’t drink products that have sugar added to it. Drink water, and drink lots of it! If you must drink something else, try drinking fruit juices. But drink the kind that doesn’t have sugar added to them.
We believe that the Daniel Fast allows for cooking your food and even using seasoning. But we highly recommend that you stay away from salt. Eat your meals in the same way as you always have; just change what you eat. Although cooking food is completely acceptable, we highly recommend that you eat as much raw food as possible, especially vegetables and fruit.
If the Daniel Fast is practiced correctly it poses no health risks for children, pregnant women or those under other medical treatments. Therefore, there is no reason why any member of the church could not participate in this fast in some way. If you have any doubts about whether you are physically able to do the fast, please check with your family physician.
Please remember that this is not a diet; it is a fast. Even though more and more medical professionals are prescribing the Daniel Fast as a very acceptable and healthy diet, we are seeking the spiritual benefits far above the physical benefits. So every time you feel the desire to bite in a juicy steak, or drink a cool can of Coca Cola; remember, you are trying to cleanse yourself, body, soul and spirit, in order to draw nearer to God.
A Daniel Fast is a fast of purification not privation. We want to detoxify our body, and our soul. It is more a question of what kinds of really good things you should put into your body during the 21 days than it is a question of what you should have to give up.
It is absolutely essential for parents to take the necessary time to prepare their children for the fast. Again, you must use wisdom. But if the Daniel Fast is done correctly, all school-age children should be able to do it. Even if it is just too difficult for them to follow the Daniel Fast while eating lunch at the school cafeteria, they can at least follow the fast with the rest of the family at breakfast and dinner. Try to adapt the fast to the level of their faith. And remind them that they are doing it in order to draw closer to God. (We would strongly counsel against radically changing an infant’s diet.)
The fast of entertainment
Our Daniel Fast, however, is not just a food diet. We are also concerned for the soul. And so we encourage everyone to abstain from all forms of entertainment during the three weeks. This can be a difficult area to define, so please seek honestly the will of God for yourself.
We have noticed over the years that for some, the fast of entertainment is more difficult than the fast from food. However, there is by far too much junk that we allow into our souls; and if we are going to be true disciples of Jesus we need to clean up our thought-life.
The eyes and ears are like doors to the soul, and by them pass things into our minds that we should not be allowing in. For some people, going three weeks without their favor TV show or their favorite game, might be just too much like psychological torture. If this is true for you, it may be an indication that you have developed a true emotional addiction to this. And you must get delivered from it.
We don’t want to be legalistic about what someone can and cannot do. We get lots of questions every year about what constitutes entertainment. I for one treat Facebook as part of my job. But for others it may be an enormous source of entertainment. There are, however, some things that are pretty clear. We encourage you to abstain from: television (even the news – the world will still be there after 21 days), films, theater, all sorts of games (especially electronic), novels, worldly music, magazines, amusement parks, and social networking on the internet if it is part of your entertainment.
We want to encourage you to fill the void with things that edify your inner man and build up your soul: like, prayer, Bible reading, listening to worship, spending time together as a family, writing in a personal journal, reading a book based on scripture, taking prayer walks and other things of this nature. Don’t just sit on the couch and look at the wall. Be creative. Don’t just busy yourself with chores and work. Spend time with God and your family and your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Most Christian families struggle to put into place a time of prayer and sharing around God’s Word as a family. We call this a Family Devotion. The Daniel Fast affords us an excellent opportunity to begin building this into our weekly habits. Though you may not feel comfortable in doing a Family Devotion every day, pick one day a week to do one before the kids go to bed. The father and mother should take special care to allow the children to share their personal experiences in the fast.
The Daniel Fast is not just a question about what you give up; it is also a question about new habits, and new joys that we discover as we seek to change our lifestyle. So we encourage you that for everything you give up, seek to add something new (and better) in it’s place.
Remember this is not a punishment; this is a blessing. We are giving up for only 3 weeks things that ultimately are not good for us. Through this kind of a fast, not only does it do us immeasurable good during the three weeks, but it inspires us to make certain lifestyle changes that result in lasting transformation.