So you want to do the Daniel Fast? (Part 1)
It's the dawn of 2018, and Christ-followers everywhere are setting their minds and hearts in order for the new year. An increasingly popular way to achieve this inner order is to start the year with a period of fasting. In recent times I've heard much to do about the Daniel Fast; a fast of which I am now quite fond. I've gotten a lot of questions over the years about how Daniel Fasting is done, with many of those asking showing a great willingness to do the fast along with no idea of how to begin. I will therefore dedicate this blog post to sharing a quick synopsis of my knowledge about the Daniel Fast.
Before I get into Daniel fasting in particular, I think it best to say something about fasting in general. What is fasting, and why do we fast? Basically, fasting is a discipline by which we deny the flesh some pleasure in order to focus on developing spiritually. Biblically, fasting is abstinence, from food, sex, luxuries, or comforts in order to take a position of humility before God. The most popular type of fasting is the food fast. Food fasts can be either total or partial; with a total food fast requiring that a person abstain entirely from food and drink, whereas partial food fasts may exclude certain categories of foods (like meat or alcohol).
"So why would a person even desire to fast?" you ask. Well, according to the Bible, a human being is tri-layered: BODY, SOUL and SPIRIT. The Spirit is the part of us that can hear directly from God. The body is the part of us that is able to interact with our physical surroundings. The Soul is the part of us that interprets the information received from both the spiritual realm and the physical realm. It is the seat of our thinking, our motivations, and emotions. From the Bible we learn that God's desire is for our soul to be directly led by our spirit-man (having been made alive in Christ). We also learn that this process of direct communication is compromised by a sort of conflict with "the flesh", which is basically a state of living mainly influenced from the physical realm inward, as opposed to the spiritual realm outward.
Romans 8:12-14 says:
"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation, but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God..."
What does all of this have to do with fasting? Fasting has the effect of denying the physical the body to the point where its influence, and perceived needs are secondary to the influence and needs of the spirit, so that the soul can receive clearer information from the spirit (as being informed by God). Therefore, in order to achieve this, fasting has to be defined by a few key elements:
1. Denial of the flesh
2. Focus on communication with God
3. The triumph of the spirit over the flesh
Before a person sets out the fast, the mode of flesh-denial should be clearly identified. Are you abstaining from all foods? Are you allowing yourself water only? Are you staying away from some other luxury? What is the duration of your fast? If you are doing a food fast, have you gotten health clearance from your physician? The duration of the fast should be clearly set, with the intention of strictest adherence barring extenuating circumstances. Humility before God is a very serious issue. Fasting should not be entered into frivolously. Remember God holds us to our word , so if we say we are fasting from 6am to 6pm, we better not get tired of self-denial at 5:45pm and think that God will understand.
Ecclesiasted 5:4 says:
"When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow."
God considers our yes to be YES and our no to be NO, so once we set our terms of fasting before Him, trust that He will respect them and will require that we do the same.
In addition, are you spending time with God during your fast? A fast without communication with God is meaningless, because the whole point is to sharpen our hearing of His voice. We should also take the opportunity to ramp up our prayer and bible reading, so that the spiritual input from the right source (GOD HIMSELF) will take the preeminence. When our bodies are being challenged we need all the spiritual fortification that we can get. Staying in God's word, and praying regularly keeps us in constant remembrance of the purpose of our flesh-denial.
Some people think that fasting is a special discipline that only the "SUPER CHRISTIANS" practice. This couldn't be further from the truth. Since the dawn of the church age, believers have held fasting as a REGULAR part of their Christian walk. The apostle Paul described himself as being " in fastings often" (2 Corinthians 11:27) and Jesus himself gave his disciples fasting instructions, beginning with "When you fast.." - not IF, WHEN. As such we see that fasting should be a regular part of our development under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is a discipline that one can grow and improve in, but it should be present in a believer's life for sure.
When we fast it is between us and God. It should be private, and we should act normally in front of our peers. Jesus called out the Pharisees for being extra dramatic when they were fasting, and for being super public about their suffering to gain the attention, admiration, and pity of others. They would sit in really dirty clothes, looking disheveled so that everyone would know that they were in spiritual mourning. Jesus told them that because they had been rewarded by their peers, God had no further reward for them for their fasting efforts. Instead, He admonished his disciples to take a bath, dress well, and to go out and about with a positive attitude; allowing God to acknowledge their humility in secret (see Matthew 6).
I hope that this information about fasting has set the right foundation. Now that we have covered some of the basics, we can better establish the specifics of the Daniel Fast. I will cover that information in part 11 of this post. See you there!