As the new year rolls in, comes new diets, new commitments, but same ol’ Daniel fast (for some of us). If you were brought up in any sort of Christian community or around “Christian folk”, you know that the beginning of the year signals the church-wide Daniel fast. If you do not know what the Daniel fast is, it is 21 days of eating solely fruits and vegetables (there are other parameters here, but I won’t get into that.) The notion of the “Daniel Fast” is derived from the story of Daniel in Chapters 1 and 10.
But was it really a fast?
Let’s look at Chapter 1. When Daniel and “his boys” were given vegetables to eat, they weren’t fasting. They weren’t seeking the Lord for anything specific. They had made up in their mind not to “defile” themselves because of the pagan gods of that society. This was their lifestyle. They lived in such a way that everything they did, whether in act or thought (conscience), honored the Lord. I believe it’s even reasonable to say, had the chief official not granted their request, they would have chosen to go without instead of defiling themselves. Praise the Lord they did not have to. Anyhow, these men ate this way at the minimum for the three years that they were in training for the king’s service.
This is our first example of how vegetables only is not necessarily a fast. Furthermore, if we look at Chapter 10, we will see further into this observation.
If there is no prayer with our fast, we are fasting on “worldly” terms, better yet, just dieting.
Christians get 21 days from the “three weeks” that Daniel mourned and “ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched [his] lips; and [he]used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. However, this is where context is important. If we flip back just one chapter to Chapter 9, we see that Daniel was already fasting and praying. In accordance with his fasting was prayer. If there is no prayer with our fast, we are fasting on “worldly” terms, better yet, just dieting. There’s too many to account in this short post, but true biblical fasting was always accompanied with prayer. Daniel mentions no prayer in this chapter. Why? Well, as soon as he began praying, the Lord heard him and answered. What point is there in continuing to fast after the Lord answered? Prayer and fasting were to seek the face of the Lord, His hand, and His direction. There was no longer a need for him to fast.
Prayer and fasting were to seek the face of the Lord, His hand, and His direction.
When we see him mourning for three weeks (which is slightly different from weeping–the verb typically associated with fasting), it’s his grief acting. It’s the same way that many people lose weight during a deep depression. They can’t will themselves to eat. Even some of the things they love and truly desire as delicates, they can’t eat because the cloud of depression is so overbearing. The revelation that Daniel received overwhelmed him. It concerned him and his people and their future end. The word had already been spoken and this deeply grieved Daniel.