For many Christians, the call to fasting and prayer is a discipline for someone else in the faith. Especially the fasting part. It certainly was for me. I don’t recall any spiritual fasts during most of my life, nor do I remember a specific, direct call to fasting from the pulpit in the evangelical churches that I attended.
Now, my wife and I have found that God tends to speak into our lives during times of fasting and prayer, and we try to make it a regular discipline. Now we are not world-class fasters. We haven’t done a 40-day fast. We haven’t done the serious 25-hour no-consumption-of-anything (not even water) fast like observant Jews do on Yom Kippur and other times. We aren’t as regular in our fasting as we’d like to be, and we haven’t done a great job sustaining a weekly fast, although we’re trying once again to make it a new habit.
I’m reflecting on fasting not because I am a model, but because I want to highly recommend a discipline of fasting and praying as a way to force a measure of self-denial and to seek greater intimacy with God. As Kevin Queen preached at 12 Stone Church 10/28/12 in a message titled When I’m Stuck: “I give up something I want (unlimited access to foods I like) for something I want more (intimacy with God).”
In recent years we have done three Daniel Fasts, two 10-day fasts and one 21-day fast. See my earlier post on one of those fasts. The Daniel Fast is not a starvation fast. Although it depends on your level of consumption of the foods you can eat, you will likely go through the fast without great hunger. The Daniel Fast is about purposely depriving yourself of certain food groups.
If you are not familiar with the Daniel Fast, it approximates the diet of Daniel and his Jewish compatriots when they were brought to the royal court in Babylon (Daniel 1:12 and Daniel 10:2). They were granted permission to eat a limited diet of foods: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Notably, they did not eat the meats, sweets, and alcohol from the King’s table.
In our Daniel Fasts, in addition to eliminating any sweets, we drink only water, which cuts out coffee and effectively derails the route to any caffeine. We’re also diligent in cutting out any chemicals and preservatives, something we’re doing more and more of in our day-to-day lives. (Although this is somewhat like a typical vegan diet, the elimination of sweets and caffeine makes it very different).
For me, coffee deprivation is the highest price of our Daniel Fast. For my wife Debbie, the biggest price is chocolate deprivation.
Why fast? In addition to the opportunity to refocus your relationship with God, there is the instruction from Jesus, when he said when you fast… (not if.)