Many Christians are fasting to begin the new year. Some are fasting from unique items such as electronics, social media, television, internet surfing, etc. I’ve also heard some are fasting from certain relationships. Others are focusing on the traditional form of fasting with food. Still, many fasting from food are doing so in unique ways of solely fasting from chocolate and other sweets/desserts; and others fasting from certain meals or food items. Specifically, some Christians are following what is known as a “Daniel Fast.”
The idea of a “Daniel Fast” (DF) is essentially a diet or partial fast, somewhat patterned after Daniel’s habits in chapter 1 & 10 in the biblical book. While I recognize and affirm my brothers and sisters who are following the DF, I would have a couple of caveats for them to consider. My caveats are not meant to disparage or think less of those following this plan in any way whatsoever, but just a gentle reminder in their faith walk and pursuit. Scripture exhorts us to not pass judgment on one another for what a person eats or does not eat, so my aim is to offer biblical awareness while affirming us together in Christ (Romans 14:1-9).
All being said, there are three caveats I would offer about the DF.
1) The Bible never intentionally or indirectly commands Christians to follow a “Daniel Fast,” whether in his name or even apart from his name. Further, the DF seems to be more of a diet than a fast. The comprehensive view of fasting from OT and NT is abstaining from food for various purposes. So, we should be careful about mandating or following a pattern that isn’t necessarily marked out for us in Scripture. More specifically, there is no mention of such a fast type in the New Testament, and almost appears a bit different from the NT idea of fasting (1 Corinthians 8:8; 10:31; Colossians 2:20-22; 1Timothy 4:4-5). So, I would gently suggest the mention of a DF be referenced in this light, with a more comprehensive view of fasting in all of Scripture.
2) Daniel’s hybrid fast does not provide a specific menu like the modern version of the DF does today. From all we know, Daniel only ate vegetables and water and abstained from meat, wine, and delicacies. What one may understand as Daniel’s delicacies seems to have created interesting and allowable items to eat based on today’s version of a DF. The point is, we simply do not have a specific menu list of Daniel’s eating habits to create, or much more mandate for others to follow. So, again, we should be careful in how we understand our methods to be spiritually impacting, realizing that food does not bring us any closer or farther away from God.
3) A last caveat in relationship to the DF is the popularization of it from pastor and author Jentezen Franklin (JF). Personally, I have listened and learned from JF’s sermons and writings. I admire his heart for the Lord and God’s people. And, like any of us, JF’s theology has an impact on his views and motivations for the DF.
In my view, boundaries can be blurred in some of his teachings on fasting to get something rather than fasting to know Someone (God). The Word-Faith movement is influential, deceptive, and at times creeps into evangelical circles. There is no doubt God is a blesser, the Father rewards what is done in secret, and the Spirit of Jesus overflows grace and mercy in our life in abundant ways. And, Christians should have a greater sense of fervency, expectancy, and faith, that can be gleaned from brothers and sisters in other faith traditions. Yet, Christians also must be discerning to understand the gospel is about the free gift of Jesus displayed in grace. There is nothing any of us can do to earn God’s favor or force His hand. Christians follow spiritual disciplines out of obedience, not out of an operating system to garner some sort of personal anointing. I fear some who follow certain teachings can lose a proper understanding of the gospel and sanctification; so I wish for Christians to simply enter seasons of prayer and fasting with a heart that is gospel-centered and not me-centered. Delight yourself in the Lord and trust the Father to provide His good gifts in His way and time.
Again, my only aim in writing this is not to shame anyone for what they believe God is leading them to do in their personal prayer life. Everyone who fasts must consider not just the biblical precepts but the health instructions essential to their own physical conditions and life circumstances. Therefore, each person’s fasting may be different than others but it can still be spiritually meaningful and impacting. One person’s fasting is not better than another person’s fasting, or another person’s not fasting. The heart motivation is what matters most to God.
For those following the Daniel Fast, thank you for your example and heart to put hunger for God above everything else. I am honored to be pursuing God with you through the humble journey of prayer AND fasting; it’s not easy and Christians need each other. My hope is to encourage Christians to eat and drink, or not, to the glory of God and be genuinely guided by all of Scripture.
To all my Christian and church family, I am praying (and fasting) with you in this new year. I pray God to show us great and unsearchable riches in steadfast love and unfathomable grace. I pray God’s people are not merely hearers but doers of the word and are filled with the Holy Spirit to be sent out as God’s image bearers reflecting the light and love of Jesus to a dark and desperate world.