In the Book of Daniel, Daniel participated in two fasts. In his first fast, Daniel only ate vegetables and for his second fast, he ceased eating meat, wine, or other delicacies for three weeks (Daniel 1:8-14, 10:3). With modern forms of diets coming on the scene including the Mediterranean diet, the Keto diet, and Paleo, many people believe the “Daniel Fast” is another diet craze trend.
The Daniel Fast is not something that should be considered part of America’s diet-culture because it is not a diet with the goal to lose weight or alter your appearance. Rather, Daniel’s fast was done out of a heart of pure devotion to God. With that being said, we can wonder whether or not we as Christians should emulate the Daniel Fast?
What Is the Significance of Fasting?
The Daniel Fast according to the modern-day includes restrictions and limiting multiple food groups for many days. As stated by the Christian Broadcasting Network, “Participating in a Daniel Fast requires eliminating commonly enjoyed foods for twenty-one days as an act of worship and of consecrating oneself to God.”
Allowed foods consist of vegetables, fruits, seeds, beans, and oils; however, foods that are off-limits include dairy, meat, sugar/sweeteners, yeast, and all processed foods (Ibid.). Promoters of the Daniel Fast say participants have to follow this fast for 21 days in order to have a deeper relationship with the Lord.
This is the overall idea of the Daniel Fast; however, when one decides to participate in a fast, the individual needs to examine their motives. Ask yourself, “Am I fasting to grow closer to God?” “Am I fasting to lose weight?” “Am I fasting to appear religious to others?” It is important to be honest with how we answer these questions.
Now for the question of whether we should try to emulate the Daniel Fast arises at the forefront of our minds. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to fast today in the modern-day. In Old Testament and New Testament times, it was common for individuals to fast to discern God’s will, focus on God, and spend more time with Him.
In other words, these individuals would fast from food and/or water in order to focus all of their attention on the Lord God Almighty. Daniel fasted for 21 days in order to not defile himself as well as to repent for the sins of Israel and his own sins.
As already stated, we do not have to participate in fasts today to draw closer to God nor do we have to fast as a form of repentance. If a person wants to draw closer to God, they need to take time out of their day to pray to Him and read the Bible.
This does not mean you have to cut out mealtimes in order to spend more time with God. In the same way, if a person is in need of repentance, all they need to do is to ask God for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Notice that John doesn’t tell us that we have to fast in order to repent. Rather, John tells us that all we have to do is to confess our sins to God and God will forgive us.
The Dangers of Fasting from Food
There are many dangers of fasting from food and/or water. While a person can survive many days without water and many weeks without food, it is not advisable for a person to fast for any and every reason. Fasting can lead to overly rigid behaviors around food, development of eating disorders, dehydration, and malnutrition.
Rather than choosing to focus on participating in the Daniel Fast or any other fast, it would be advisable for Christians to fast from other things that take up the majority of our day. Most people do not spend much time eating their meals — anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for a meal is reasonable.
Now, if we looked at social media, watching television, and surfing the internet, we would quickly realize we spend the majority of our day on one of these services. Therefore, we should try to fast from social media, the internet, or watching television for 21 days and spend the time that we would normally spend doing these things with God instead.
We could talk to Him in prayer and hear back from Him through reading the Bible. Examine yourself and see how much time you spend on these digital services and take note of the amount of minutes or hours that you spend on these services.
Once you have a rough idea of how long you spend on these services, replace this time with spending valuable and quality time with the Lord. Fasting from social media, the internet, and television will be much more beneficial to us than fasting from food and water.
The purpose of fasting is supposed to draw us closer to God — not to cause us to become physically or mentally ill. If we are careful and are honest about our motives in participating in a fast, it can be quite eye-opening to us.
Therefore, we should not try to emulate the Daniel Fast if there is a possibility that it could cause disordered eating patterns or be converted as a symbol of religion when it is done for the wrong reasons.
What if I Fast for the Right Reason?
If you want to participate in the Daniel Fast for the right reason to grow closer to God, you can. Everyone has freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1). However, there is a fine line between fasting for the right reasons and for selfish reasons. We should all be honest and examine ourselves before we partake in any type of fast.
If you have a past history of eating disorders, it is not advisable for you to partake in any sort of fast as it can be extremely triggering and cause you to relapse.
Instead, it would be much more beneficial for people to fast from something that is controlling their lives or takes up a majority of their days, such as social media, the internet, or television.
Fasting should be done with the purpose of growing closer to God and deepening our relationship with Him — not to lose weight or try to convey we are “more religious” than others for fasting.
As Jesus states, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).
Ultimately, it all comes down to your heart’s motives. In everything we do, including if we participate in a fast, needs to be done out of genuine heart motive to focus on God.
While you can choose to do the Daniel Fast, it would most likely be more beneficial to choose something from your life that is taking up a good amount of time in your daily life and replace the time that you would be doing this activity by spending time with God instead.
For further reading:
Why Did Jesus Fast?
Why Is Prayer Important for Fasting?
Why Does Daniel Have the Most Memorable Bible Stories?
Can Fasting Be Healthy and Holy?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Zbynek Pospisil
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is probably embarking on an adventure.