So you want to do the Daniel Fast? (Part 11)

Photo by Taylor Kiser

Photo by Taylor Kiser

I've been hearing a lot about the Daniel Fast lately as a type of fast that seems to be gaining popularity. I myself am an avid proponent of Daniel fasting, as it is my preferred fasting method for several reasons. Quite a few friends have asked me about how a Daniel Fast is done, and so I felt inspired to summarize my knowledge about it within this blog post. Before reading this post, however, if you haven't read my last post, I suggest that you do so and come back. I will wait for you.

"So you want to do the Daniel Fast (Part 1)"

So what is the Daniel Fast anyway?

The Daniel fast is not a directly referenced fast in the Bible, but rather a hybridized biblically based partial fast that blends Daniel's regular diet, with his fasting regimen. A Daniel fast is typically done for either 10 days (which is the number of days that Daniel's regular diet was tested by his overseer) and 21 days (which is the number of days Daniel actually mourned and sought the Lord's face for spiritual insight later on the Book of Daniel. Let's explore those two time-frames and their related passages in greater detail.

In Daniel chapter 1 verses 8-14, we find the account of Daniel. Daniel was taken from his homeland and into Babylonian captivity to serve the King at close quarters during a time of Babylonian conquest. He was selected along with other children based on his health, good-looks, and apparent intelligence. The king had scoured the land for children that he thought were suitable to be trained to serve in high positions within his royal court. As such, The king afforded them the best educational training and the best food that his royal menu could offer. This included specified portions of meats and wines (although the word MEAT was also used generally to refer to food in general).

Daniel came from a culture where certain foods were forbidden and the diet was regulated by holy commandments. These commandments were linked to health considerations, and also were supposed to keep the Israelites fit for holy service to God. As such, when Daniel was assimilated into the Babylonian culture, he found some of the savoury foreign foods being presented to him to be unclean. He therefore asked the eunuch in charge of the captured children to excuse him from the portion of food that the King had assigned him, and instead to let him eat food with which he was familiar - "pulses" and water. Pulses are legumes of all kinds: beans, peas etc. The eunuch was afraid to do this because he had the charge of presenting the young boys to king after 3 years in the best possible condition. He therefore agreed to TEST Daniel's diet of choice for only 10 DAYS, after which he would evaluate  Daniel's health and decide whether or not to let Daniel have his way. At the end of 10 days, the Bible reports that Daniel and his friends looked healthy, and better looking than the other children on the king's diet, and he was allowed to remain on it for (presumably) the remainder of his time of preparation. This is where we get the 10 DAY basis for the Daniel Fast.

A key thing to note, however, is that Daniel was not fasting at this time. This was Daniel's regular lifestyle. Daniel's regular diet was legumes and water. Historical accounts from the time period also suggest that Daniel may also have eaten whole grains and cakes made with the same, with olive oil (depending on availability at the time) and an assortment of vegetables and fruits. This is where we get the first set of dietary guidelines for the "Daniel Fast":

1. We drink only WATER

2. We eat peas and beans

3. We are allowed vegetables (and even fruits)

4. We are allowed whole grains

5. We are allowed clean oils (e.g. olive oil) and non-saturated fats

The first time that Daniel is actually mentioned fasting is in Daniel chapter 9. At that time, Daniel was catching up on his prophecy knowledge and he came across some negative prophecies by over the people of Israel by the prophet Jeremiah. Daniel decided to mourn on behalf of the sins of the people of Israel and to plead with God for Him to show them mercy and to change their fate. When describing Daniel's fast, the only thing we are told is that Daniel pleaded with God in prayer and petition, in fasting and in sackcloth and ashes. In Daniel's culture, fasting would have meant total abstinence from food, so Daniel's actual fast here may have been a total food fast; we can only speculate. Yet again, in chapter 10 of the Book of Daniel, Daniel is said to be "mourning" before the Lord. He ate no pleasant food, no wine touched his lips, and he didn't even put lotions on his body for a total of 21 days. This is where we get an alternative 21 day basis for the Daniel Fast.

Putting the Daniel 9 and Daniel 10 accounts together, we get more guidelines for the "Daniel Fast":

6. We plead with God through prayer and petition

7. We put aside pleasant foods 

8. We put aside wine (some have taken this as a dismissal of all sweetened beverages

9. We don't treat our physical bodies luxuriously (hmmmm....)

SO WAIT...What CAN we eat?

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Obviously, by this point you will realize that very few people, if any, actually practice the "Daniel Fast" in the way that Daniel did. This is why the modern day Daniel Fast is really a derivation from Daniel's fasting practices and not an actual fast from scripture. However, most people who practice Daniel Fasting have come to agree on the following guidelines:

1. We drink only WATER

2. We eat peas and beans

3. We are allowed vegetables (and even fruits)

4. We are allowed whole grains

5. We are allowed clean oils (e.g. olive oil) and non-saturated fats

6. We plead with God through prayer and petition

7. We put aside rich foods and foods with additives and preservatives

8. We put aside added sweeteners

Based on the above guidelines, however, it is possible to juice some of your meals, or to create blended fruit shakes with no added sugar or dairy etc, simply by liquefying the items above, so technically, there can be "drinks" other than water in that sense. Definitely though, no dairy, soft drinks, teas , coffee etc. is allowed. I've often opted to make almost everything from scratch when on the Daniel Fast because of how many preservatives are in ready made items like Almond or Soya Milks etc.

Benefits of the Daniel Fast:

1. Increased discipline - I find the Daniel fast more challenging for me that 6am to 6pm total fasting because the diet has strict guidelines until it ends. I found that with 6am to 6pm fasting I could still binge on excess or unhealthy foods to make up for the sense of loss I had while fasting during the day; whereas with Daniel fasting I had to practice real discipline throughout since most foods that were easily available were also off limits.

2. Health Benefits  - Since I tend to be anemic, the Daniel Fast allows me to fast without having my blood sugar, or iron levels fall too low. In fact, my levels are usually better during and after the fast. Also, the fast is a natural detox, which leaves you with clearer skin and a smaller waistline. For those who have battled with inflammation, like myself, the Daniel Fast is great for eliminating all of the excess sugars that otherwise poison our bodies.

3. Spiritual Benefits - We all need to learn to humble ourselves before God. Oftentimes, our flesh gets way too much of a voice in our lives, and fasting is a great way to let our fleshly desires take a back seat so that we can hear God more clearly. 

In conclusion (and as per the part one of this post) the Daniel Fast is supposed to be a fast of humility. These days there seems be a completely different understanding of what the Daniel Fast should be. There are numerous "Daniel Fast Recipe" sites popping up here and there, and it seems like many people are trying to find ways to cheat the system so that the Daniel Fast becomes more like Daniel's Fancy Vegan Diet. Arguably, since the Daniel Fast is what we make it, I suppose no one can really tell another person how to Daniel Fast correctly, but I feel personally convicted that going off on tasty Daniel recipes is inconsistent with the spirit in which Daniel himself fasted: in total self-subjection and humility before God. That being said, I find that if we are genuinely seeking to find out how to successfully complete a Daniel Fast, dedicating a a few weeks before the fast to research and simple meal planning goes a long way. You want to prepare to the point that you aren't obsessing about your meals all the way through the fast. Remember, the Daniel Fast is a partial fast that allows us many more fasting luxuries than we should have, so let's not overdo it. Hearing God and communing with Him should be what occupies our minds and hearts while on the Daniel fast.

Happy Fasting!