The Daniel Fast or the Daniel Diet?
As with the Daniel Fast, there is some confusion about what fasting means. In Food in God’s Place, Robbie makes fun of Anna’s fasting when he says that he fasted from candy bars. Like with Robbie, there seems to be some confusion over fasting.
In chapter one of the Book of Daniel, we learn that Daniel is usually or is much of the time a vegetarian because after his ten day test of vegetables and water, the official in charge gives him more vegetables. Apparently he sometimes eats meat because early in chapter 10, the section used to support the ‘Daniel Fast,’ he goes without meat, wine, and choice foods.
Some use this going without period in chapter 10 to support the ‘Daniel Fast.’ They refer to this practice as a partial fast. Interestingly, Daniel does’t call it a fast, nor does scripture refer to it as a fast. Daniel did practice fasting and prayer earlier in chapter 9, but that is a separate instance. So Daniel knew what fasting was and he did not refer to his period of mourning and prayer as a ‘Daniel Fast.’
Daniel Fas not Equal to Normal Biblical Fasting
Daniel clearly understood the value of fasting as a focal lens for prayer. It is likely that his fast in chapter 9 followed the normal Biblical practice of no food, liquid or solid. On the day he fasted, he probably did drink water. There were occasional examples without food and water but these were exceptions to the usual practice of Biblical fasting. See sources in Guide to Prayer and Fasting.
Fasting is an elevated practice designed to enhance and focus prayer. Daniel did have an extended period of prayer and mourning, but he did not refer to it as a fast.
There is nothing wrong with practicing the ‘Daniel Fast,’ but it is important for us not to equate it to the fasting usually referred to in the Bible.
Potential problems that we must guard against when using the Daniel Fast
1. It may take away the emphasis on prayer that is typical of standard prayer and fasting.
2. It may emphasize what we eat too much and what eating is allowed becomes a distraction from the period of prayer. With all the Daniel Fast recipes, there is a whole industry built around this topic. Why not just eat vegetables and rice?
3. It is too much like a diet and it becomes about me and dieting instead me and God. With the explosion of recipes and advice, the partial fast concept has been diminished. The focus in some cases appears to special recipes and health benefits instead of submission to God and focused prayer.
4. We may think we have done something to be proud about. This can be a problem with regular fasting as well, and we must guard against this with prayer. It is a greater problem with the Daniel Fast because the special recipes and diet may distract us from focused prayer.
Partial fasts are important especially to people who for health reasons cannot go for a 24 or 36 hour period without food. But for most of us, we need to practice regular fasting before we practice the Daniel Fast so that we understand and experience the difference. There is a big difference. Try them both and compare.
Anna talks with Jesus in Food in God’s Place and learns how regular fasting enhances prayer and increases intimacy with God.
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