The Bible is full of examples of fasting and our modern western Christian culture has all but lost most of them. My friend Trent Holbert suggested I read the book Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, by Elmer L. Towns, and boy am I glad he did! This book has examples of nine different fasts based on the Bible, and for this post I am going to outline some of what the author describes as the Daniel Fast.
God has promised, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen…[that] your healing shall spring forth speedily (Isa. 58:6,8). When we begin fasting and praying for physical health and healing, we must realize that it is God who heals. His name Jehovah Rapha means, “I am Lord who heals you (Exod. 15:26)
For a few years now I have been fasting frequently for overall health. I have completed one five day water only fast, many 3-4 day water only fasts, countless 24 hour water only fasts, a few Ayurvedic stew only fasts, and almost every day I fast 14-16 hours between dinner and breakfast. For each of these fasts my primary goal has been to improve my health and to give my body the rest it needs. Digesting foods requires a lot of the body’s focus and energy and as such taking a rest from digestion allows the body to do a lot of clean up it normally doesn’t have the time for.
It is counterintuitive but I have experienced many high points while on fasts. Having more energy than on a typical day, not needing as much sleep, and being in a fantastic clear headed mood. I remember sending a message to a friend on my last five day fast saying, “How can I feel this great every day?” I spend my fasts dry skin brushing, taking walks in the sunshine, drinking clean celtic sea salt mineralized water, reading positive books, praying, and doing many other relaxing activities. It is tremendously refreshing!
When I partake on a long fast, greater than 24 hours, there are some difficult times where my desire for food is extremely strong. The first few times I fasted it was very difficult and took a lot of strength to get through. Now that I have more experience it can still be difficult, but has gotten better and better with each fast. And each one feels completely different. It is very important to listen to your body and to discern what is just a reflexive call for hunger and what is a true call for you to eat. When I first began fasting I learned a lot from this fasting resource, All About Fasting. The harder you’ve been on your body and the longer it has been since you’ve given it rest from digestion, the more difficult your first few fasts will be. But I believe this is because of the detoxification your body is going though and it probably needs it!
As a Christian I am trying to improve upon my fasts from being mostly about achieving better health and using them to improve my relationship with Jesus and as a time for spiritual growth and as a sacrifice during times of turbulence the lives of loved ones in my community. The book by Towns is helping me to take my strong foundation of fasting for health and make it more Christ centered.
The Daniel Fast (Excerpts from Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, Regal Books):
“On APRIL, 1985, DEAN OF STUDENTS VERNON BREWER OF LIBERTY University was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave him a short time to live. Vernon Brewer was a well-liked dean because he was fair in handling discipline problems. His life magnified the Lord Jesus Christ. Word about his cancer grieved the entire student body.
All 5,000 students were asked to join in prayer and fasting for Dean Brewer’s healing. The students were given several days to prepare themselves for the fast and to learn what fasting would do. Then the students began a 24-hour prayer vigil in the school chapel. The chapel only seated 200 people, so the students were asked to alternate 1-hour segments throughout the night and day. The chapel was always overflowing; therefore, the chapel windows were opened, allowing students sitting on the grass outside to join in the time of prayer with those inside.
The number of those praying during the darkest hours of the night was greater than during the day when classes were in session. The food services of the university shut down, except for a small serving line for about 50 diabetic students who had to eat and could not physically join in the fast. Even then, those whose conditions required them to eat prayed just as intently as those who were fasting.
After fasting and praying, three medical procedures were performed to save Dean Brewer’s life. First, a five-pound cancerous mass was surgically removed from his chest. Next, he received both radiation and chemotherapy. As I write this story 10 years later, Vernon Brewer is alive, and as healthy as he was before we fasted and prayed. He directs World Help, a missionary and humanitarian organization. Every time I see Vernon Brewer, I know God heals in answer to prayer and fasting.”
“God has promised that prescriptive healing can come by faith and prayer: “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (Jas. 5:15). Faith and prayer must be joined. Faith is an instrument of healing when it is joined to the tool of prayer. Even when you have faith and pray, it is still God who heals, or maintains health. The Daniel Fast rests on a three-platformed foundation: (1) faith, (2) prayer and (3) fasting. The following are some steps for fasting for preventive or curative health, drawn from the biblical account of Daniel.”
Step 1: Be Specific
Daniel was not vague in his objection to the Babylonian diet. He defined the problem immediately, and had a clear solution to suggest to the king’s servants. Although it was an act that had social and political implications and may well have cost him his life, Daniel was specific about his plan.
With so much at stake, why did Daniel reject the delicacies offered by the king? Three possibilities have been suggested: (1) The king’s food was against Jewish dietary laws; (2) Daniel and his three friends had vows against partaking of the alcohol (wine) that was included; and (3) the king’s food had been offered to foreign idols/demons.
The exact reason Daniel refused to eat the king’s meat is not clear. Two principles, however, are evident: (1) Daniel felt it was a religious test of his faith (he would not defile himself [v. 8]); (2) Daniel had a desire for a strong physical body in which to serve the Lord.
Step 2: Fast as a Spiritual Commitment
The Daniel Fast consists of more than just a diet adjustment or the withholding of food. The Daniel Fast involves a spiritual commitment to God. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself (Dan. 1:8). Although he bargained with his overseer, the whole process began with a spiritual commitment to God. The Daniel Fast requires a spiritual equation, not just a physical solution.
Step 3: Reflect Inner Desire by Outer Discipline
Many people have an inner desire for better health, but they can’t discipline themselves to avoid junk food, finger food, or other party food. If you want a strong physical body, you must make a wholehearted commitment to discipline your body. You must say no to improper food and yes to healthy food. Out of Daniel’s deep spiritual commitment he said to his overseer, Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. (Dan. 1:12).
The level of your spiritual commitment as reflected in constant prayer during the fast. It is not enough to do without food; you must pray during your Daniel Fast that God would give you the strength of your commitment to stay on the fast.
In case of illness, you must also pray for God to touch your physical body with healing; that the disease will be flushed out of your body;
Your time commitment. Be sure to fulfill your fast to the conclusion of your commitment. If you make a 10-day commitment to God, be sure that you do not stop on the ninth day. As an illustration, suppose you have a sinus infection, and that the doctor prescribes penicillin. You begin taking your medicine, and in a few days you start to feel better. It’s tempting to quit taking your medicine at that point; but the doctor said to continue taking penicillin after you feel well because the entire prescription is needed to completely kill the infection. You don’t quit taking medicine when you feel better, but when the infection is eliminated.
Your testimony commitment. Your Daniel Fast is a statement of faith to God that you want Him to heal your body. It is also a statement of faith to yourself and to other people. A Daniel Fast is a faith statement for a specific purpose. Jesus said, if you have faith…you will say to this mountain [your physical problem], Move from here to there. (Matt. 17:20). Maintaining your fast is a testimony to yourself and to others that you believe God can move mountains.
Faith is foundational to the Daniel Fast. Do not minimize the role of faith in healing your body. There is a strong tie between mental and physical health. Those who have strong self-esteem and who feel good about themselves help their bodies make better use of food, leading to better physical health. The Bible recognizes this tie between mental and physical health in such statements as, A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance (Prov. 15:13). James tells us that the prayer of faith will save the sick (Jas. 5:15). And God tells us to visit the sick to encourage their faith and spiritual growth. Therefore, make a dual commitment in your Daniel Fast for physical strength to keep the fast to the end of your commitment, and for faith and emotional strength for your spirit.
There are several ways to appropriately involve others in the Daniel Fast:
- More than one can agree to fast together, providing support and unity
- You can announce to others the purpose of the fast
- In the case of sin, you can relate it to those it involves
- You can involve church leaders, as directed in James 5:14
Fasting can be a very powerful tool in a Christian’s arsenal and we have lost sight of the tremendous power it has. Fasting is becoming mainstream in the health and wellness community for its curative powers by giving the body a period of rest and healing. The Christian community should be leading the charge and bringing fasting back to the forefront as a spiritual discipline.
“If every Christian fasted, the results could shake our society like a windstorm bending a sapling. Christians would demonstrate that they live differently, that their faith is imperative, that the Almighty works in their daily lives.”Elmer L. Towns