‘Sometimes I need to engage in an activity for the single purpose of disengaging from productivity. There’s an invisible world that lives inside our bodies, the inner world of the soul. And this inner world needs our attention, but it doesn’t respond to progress, agendas or hustle. The soul responds to space, silence and Jesus.’ – Emily P. Freeman
The Daniel Fast presented an opportunity to disengage from the world outside. My family and I took part in the Daniel Fast at the start of the year, to welcome a new year by restoring our bodies to good health and draw closer to Christ.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that involves denying cravings or desires of the flesh, mainly by abstaining from food, or in the case of the Daniel Fast, ‘to restrict food for a spiritual purpose’. There is a lot of information about fasting and the types of fasting undertaken. The reason behind fasting is a strong desire to grow spiritually. For Christians, this leads to spiritual maturity, over time.
A Daniel Fast takes preparation and planning. First things first, we ‘purposed in our hearts’ like Daniel did (as noted in Daniel 1:8) to abstain from the restricted foods and devote our time to Him through prayer and studying His Word. We checked our intentions and what we wanted to get out of this experience. We wholeheartedly wanted to experience God in a real way. To put into place new habits that would grow us as Christians, and keep us connected to Him beyond 21 days. We talked about what we would experience or encounter during the fast, spiritually and physically. ‘But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God".' (Matthew 4:4 NKJV Bible)
It was tricky trying to get to grips with the foods that were allowed as it was our first time. And it was not just a strict vegan diet. I found a really good resource to guide us (The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory). Creating set meal plans and having a shopping list ready, saved me time in meal prep and food shopping. We removed the restricted foods from our cupboards and fridge, out of sight out of mind!
Our bodies underwent a detox in the first few days, we felt headaches and fatigued, as our bodies experienced withdrawal symptoms from sugar and caffeine. And the overindulgence from our Christmas holiday. We knew this was normal. And really had to focus on our intentions and God. The UK lockdown and homeschooling helped.
I cooked nearly everyday, with the exception of two Sundays when my son cooked. We both found joy in preparing fresh and nutritious meals. We agreed that I would be in charge of the cooking, as I knew what was allowed and what wasn’t. There was no surplus as we had to keep to the recommended daily serving portion. Boy, did we appreciate that home cooked meal in the evenings!
We are so fortunate we have an abundance of vegetables and fruit available to us. In spite of what was not allowed, there was still a lot to choose from. We learned to focus on what we have i.e our blessings (rather than what‘a missing) and be grateful for it. We have more than enough, we have what really matters. This is not just about food, but also about life and living through this pandemic. Its tough to adopt a positive mindset right now but this fast really helped us to improve our focus.
Admittedly, food plays a huge part in our culture. The Daniel Fast taught us to eat the right portions, try new healthy recipes, cut down (out) refined sugars or processed foods from our diet, appreciate every meal and avoid food wastage. To keep our bodies healthy and strong, undefiled like Daniel did. It will take more than 21 days to implement this lifestyle change but we witnessed this change in our health and can testify to its benefits.
I was concerned about our teenager who continued to run 30km a week, but he reminded me that he put his trust in God and not food! This kid loves his sweets and junk food like any other teenager so this was quite a challenge for him. But God showed him that a life of faith is far sweeter and satisfying, he didn't lag in his studies or fitness and really embraced this experience. Thank God!
We studied the Book of Daniel during the 21 days, as it is the basis of the fast. It is a remarkable story of faith and it made an impression on our teenage son. Daniel was a young man from Judah, with a steadfast faith that was tested when he was taken from his home as a captive to Babylon where life was so different to what he left behind. Him and his friends were gifted in wisdom and knowledge, were to be trained in the ways of Babylon to serve the king of Babylon. The Babylonians were self-seeking people and idol worshippers, they sought material wealth and trusted their own worldly wisdom. Daniel and his friends stood out, because they remained committed to their faith and continued to serve God. A testament to their parents who raised them up to be God fearing and faithful.
There are many important messages in the Book of Daniel. But the one that is worth sharing here is about when Daniel was set up by his enemies and he walked right into their trap. Daniel had gained favour with their king and they wanted to destroy him. What seemed like his enemies' greatest victory was God's moment to come through for Daniel and His glory to be revealed. Daniel was spared from the lions and did not falter in his faith.
Daniel and his friends' situation is no different to ours today. We can't change the world by hiding, we've got to be out there in it. Not to conform or to fit in, but to demonstrate God’s love and peace in us, the peace that surpasses all understanding that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7 NKJV Bible) in the midst of the troubles or pandemic. It was a timely message for me and my family, and I hope for all believers, in what is a desperate situation all around us, we are called to shine brightly for God's glory. As it is written, Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.(Matt 5:16 NKJV Bible)
I discovered that fasting is humbling. When I reflected on my prayer life, it was safe and comfortable, seeking my security and avoiding struggles. Even my anxious thoughts were so small and insignificant in the grand scheme of God's plans. Yet, He remains faithful and good to me always, and I am humbled by this verse - 'What is man that you are mindful of them, and the son of man that you visit him?’ (Psalm 8:4 NKJV Bible).
Fasting and praying helped me and my family to be more mindful of Him, to increase our awareness of His presence in our lives. This is where prayer is really important, we are encouraged to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17 NKJV Bible) and to tap into the power of prayer. Our desire is to have a deep and personal relationship with God, to truly know Him. And to step into line with His will for our lives. This is an area of submission and surrendering our will, daily. But only possible through a strong prayer life, which is what we are currently learning to cultivate in our own lives, to pray boldly and fervently, individually and collectively.
It was our first time to fast as a family and what we all gained from the 21-day experience is a testament to God’s goodness and provision. We developed a healthier approach to food, we eat to live! Ultimately, only God can sustain us. The future is not guaranteed and beyond our control, but God remains in control and is on our side. We look forward to what He has in store for us in 2021.
My intention was to document my journey, and encourage someone to live healthily, restore or grow their faith in God or to explore a new life with Christ Jesus. I hope this post will touch you in some way.
On a final note, there is great value in taking time out to wait on the Lord, it has empowered me to do God’s work according to His purpose with renewed strength and passion.
Thank you for reading. If you have been on the Daniel Fast, share your own experience in the comments below.
All glory to God.
Basically, the foods that are included on the fast - all fruits, all vegetables, all whole grains, all nuts and seeds, all legumes, all quality oils, water, soy food, cooking ingredients and condiments. The foods that are restricted are - all meat and animal products, all sweeteners, all leavened bread, all refined and processed food products, all solid fats and all non-water beverages. It’s stricter than a vegan diet, with no caffeine (no coffee, tea, herbal, green tea or hot chocolate) and sugar.
(Source: The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory)