The Daniel Fast – Useful, But Not Same as Biblical Fasting
The author of the ‘Daniel Fast’ created a term by linking a name and a word from the Bible. This term, Daniel Fast, misleads readers. How? It leads them to think that a dietary choice Daniel made for a period qualified as a fast. The term Daniel Fast further misleads as it dilutes or confuses the purpose of fasting.
As I wrote last week about the Daniel Fast, we learn in Chapter One of the Book of Daniel that Daniel chooses to eat a vegetarian diet most of the time. After his ten day test of vegetables and water, the official in charge gives him more vegetables. He sometimes eats meat because early in Chapter 10, in the section used to support the ‘Daniel Fast,’ he goes without meat, wine, and choice foods.
Some refer to this practice as a partial fast. Interestingly, Daniel does not call it a fast, nor does scripture. Daniel practiced fasting and prayer earlier in Chapter 9, but as a separate instance. So Daniel knew the meaning of fasting. He did not refer to his period of mourning and prayer as a fast.
No references to partial fasts exist in scripture. All references to fasting refer to a period of time without food, solid or liquid. Some rare instances also exclude water. See sources in Guide to Prayer and Fasting.
Daniel clearly understood fasting as a focal lens for prayer, a way to double down in front of the throne of God. His fast in chapter 9 likely followed the normal Biblical fasting practice of no food, liquid or solid. On the day he fasted, probably drank water. Occasional examples without food and water exist in the Bible but as exceptions. Biblical fasting elevates, enhances and focuses prayer. Daniel did have an extended period of prayer and mourning. He did not refer to it as a fast. The ‘Daniel Fast’ benefits those who practice it, but we should not equate it or elevate it to Biblical fasting.
Biblical fasting enhances and focuses prayer. The person fasting obtains a very clear sense that they need God more than air, food, or water.
When using the Daniel Fast, I will miss the experience or deep understanding that I need God more than air, food, or water because:
1.The Daniel Fast with all the recipes and advice creates distractions and diminishes emphasis on prayer. Biblical fasting emphasizes prayer. The true Daniel fast in Chapter 9 of the book of Daniel and elsewhere in the Bible leaves no room for distraction. When practiced while seeking God, fasting annihilates distractions.
2.The Daniel Fast may deny me the insight of my true condition. It removes focus on my need and dependency upon God. Something I am less likely to miss when practicing Biblical fasting.
3.The Daniel Fast functions too much like a diet and becomes about me and dieting instead of God. The focus in some cases appears to be on special recipes and health benefits instead of on submission to God and focused prayer.
4. Without complete fasting I may miss the war of the will which takes place during fasting. During complete fasting I will experience the insistence of my stomach which represents my will demanding to have its way. Raw lust demands, “I must have it now!” Whether food or other needs, the impatient, impulsive demand to have it now is lust. When I fast, I remind myself that I give up all rights to myself to be a disciple. Giving up my basic right to food represents becoming a ‘living sacrifice.’ If I allow myself to eat, I will completely miss this experience, perhaps the greatest lesson of fasting. Each time I feel edgy or irritable, I beat it back in prayer. I ask God to kill the will through confession and asking for His forgiveness, healing and help.
5. The Daniel Fast may cause me to think that I have done something to be proud about. ‘Look what the Adkins, the Rice Diet, the Daniel Fast or whichever diet has done for me.’ Isaiah Chapter 58 warns about fasting for the wrong reasons. Biblical fasting in my self-indulgent, glutinous culture leaves little room for boasting, ‘What did you do?’ Answering, ‘I didn’t eat anything, I prayed,’ leaves little room for boasting. I am much more likely to boast when I employ special foods or eating patterns because there is an ‘I know something you don’t’ element. In contrast, many people think Biblical fasting is weird.
6. I’m always concerned with anything that conforms to innovative, popular Christianity, Inc practices that [Have] “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:5 The world, sin, has a way of corrupting any of the best intentions. Popular expressions of Christianity are just as vulnerable to this corruption. I am warned about thinking that what I do makes me righteous multiple times in the Bible.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22-23 This could easily read: Lord, Lord, did I not go to the …. church. And the right Christian college… and 11 mission trips. How does such self deception occur?
Like this,”How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? ” John 5:44 It occurs because too often, I would rather listen to the religious people around me rather than have my own authentic relationship with my Lord. True fasting with prayer (and confession and repentance) is tool for getting out of this trap, not some popularly acclaimed practice.
7. If this discussion about the the Daniel Fast has made me tense or upset, I should read through points one through five of Is Spiritual Blindness Incurable? If any tension I feel about the Daniel Fast flows from pride, I should pray about it. I must reflect further before I practice it. Another good post for reflection if I am tense or upset is on Pride; something I should examine during any fast; something that if don’t think is a problem, is probably in fact metastatic and killing me spiritually.
Partial fasts are important for people who for health reasons cannot go 24 or 36 hours without food. If able, I need to practice Biblical fasting before I practice the Daniel Fast. If I do, I will I understand and experience the difference. One offers greater spiritual empowerment and connection with God. The latter offers some benefits of personal discipline.
Personally I’m uncomfortable participating in a Daniel Fast. It reeks of Christianity, Inc., that is populist human wisdom in the name of Christianity or the business of selling things with a religious glaze — not the INC Christianity movement, a more recent phenomena and future post. Just my opinion, many very spiritual people with strong personal relationships with God use the Daniel Fast. As I am inclined to distraction, this perhaps categorizes me as a “weak Christian.” No doubt, as I need God more than air, food, or water. He empowers me. May my self continue to weaken while his power increases in me.
This of course does not apply to Lenten fasting which traditionally consists of eating before sunrise and after sunset.
If you intend to fast in any form, some MUST reads:
Overcoming Fear and Anxiety and Learning to Live with Suffering is an Area Where All Christians can be a Better Witness
Meditate Upon and pray about these passages:
Originally Published: Jan 25, 2013