The Daniel Fast
The Daniel fast is a biblically based, partial fast referenced in the Book of Daniel:
- Daniel 1:12. Daniel and his fellow Hebrew slaves ate only “pulse” and water for ten days.
- Daniel 10:1-2. Daniel ate no “choice food, meat or wine” for three weeks.
“Pulse” is generally regarded as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. A Daniel fast is similar to a vegan diet in which no animal products are consumed.
There is not a definite time length or a predefined number of days for engaging in a Daniel fast. Although many use this method for as few as seven days, usually a Daniel fast is either ten or twenty-one days.
Foods to include on a Daniel Fast:
- All vegetables
- All fruits
- All whole grains
- All nuts and seeds
- All legumes
- All quality oils
- Soy foods
- Condiments and cooking ingredients
- Fruit slushies
Restricted Foods on a Daniel Fast:
- All meat and animal products
- All dairy products
- Sweeteners, sugar and honey
- Leavened bread
- Refined and processed foods
- Deep-fried foods
- Solid fats
- Coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, energy drinks
The Wesley Fast
For most of his public ministry, John Wesley advocated and practiced fasting two days per week. This was a standard fast: liquids were allowed. On Wednesdays he would fast for one meal (usually the noon meal); on Fridays he would fast the entire day (from sundown Thursday to sundown Friday). He believed so much in the value of this spiritual discipline that he required his Methodist preachers to take a vow that they would engage in fasting by “precept and example”. As Wesley aged, he fasted only one day per week.
Usually, adherents to the “Wesley Fast” will fast from food for either one day per week, or one meal per week. Then spend the mealtime in prayer.
The Lenten Fast
Although Christians have traditionally fasted from food and or drink during the forty days of Lent, there are many other examples of abstinence from the saints through the ages. Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). On the calendar this time period is actually forty-six days. However, the early church considered Sundays to be “feasting days” or “celebration days”. So, whatever was being denied during the Lenten fast was allowed on these six Sundays.
Examples of a Lenten Fast (Besides food)
- Television or Radio
- Social Media
- Video Games
- Specific food items
- The internet
- Bringing your cell phone with you wherever you go
Examples of Spiritual Activities for Lent (besides prayer, of course)
- Memorize a Psalm or a book of the Bible
- Volunteer for a social project or ministry
- Attend church every Sunday
- Read a devotional classic
- Pray in the car on the way to work everyday
- Try a new ministry opportunity in your church
FAQ ABOUT FASTING
What is a fast?
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” -James 4:8
“The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41b
The Hebrew word for fast is nesteuo, which means to cover the mouth. So generally, fasting is abstaining from food and/or drink as a spiritual discipline for a period of time in order to draw closer to God. However, the spiritual discipline of fasting for Christians down through the centuries has also taken other forms: fasting from entertainment, specific drinks, games, or other things that might distract the believer from hearing God’s voice.
God created this spiritual tool to help the believer grow in spirit, resist the flesh, and draw close to God by focusing on prayer. Fasting is stepping into a temporary set of disciplines for a specified purpose.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do…” -Matthew 6:16
Jesus assumed that His followers would fast. One might ask, “Should I wait until the Lord leads me before attempting a fast?” The Holy Spirit may lead a believer to fast, but it is usually up to the individual to decide when and how to fast. That is why it is called a “spiritual discipline”.
Many Christians view fasting as a way to intensify prayer and increase its effectiveness. Following Jesus’ words in Matthew 26, some believe that by denying the needs of the body or of the flesh, our spiritual sensitivity is heightened and enhanced.
When to fast?
“At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” –Daniel 10:2
Daniel fasted in order to receive an answer from God. It came in verse 4, after three weeks of fasting from certain foods. For centuries, Christians have often fasted from some material pleasure in order to find direction, guidance, or an answer from God. (cf. also Acts 9:9)
Lent has been the traditional time for Christians to fast. In the early church, new believers would spend the forty days of Lent in fasting, study and prayer in preparation for the rite of Baptism on Easter Sunday.
How to fast?
“But this kind does not go out except by fasting and prayer.” - Matthew 17:21
Fasting is always associated with prayer. A practical way to exercise this spiritual discipline is to spend the usual mealtime in prayer, usually in a secluded location. As Jesus stated in Matthew 26, fasting is a private exercise.
Types of fasts:
Standard Fast: consuming only water and/or basic liquids*
Absolute Fast: no water or food*
Partial Fast: restricting specific foods and drink
Intermittent Fast: fasting for one meal per week, or one day per week, etc.
*It may be wise to consult your physician before engaging in some fasts. Fasting regimens can be adjusted if one is in athletic training, using medications, or has some physical ailment (i.e. hypoglycemia, diabetes, etc.)