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Allison Althoff
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Natalie Lederhouse
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March 2, 2010

My Daniel Fast

I never imagined everything that I’d realize about myself

A few Mondays ago, I inhaled deeply as the warm, earthy scent of brewing coffee wafted gently over several rows of cubicles and wandered toward my nose. I can usually smell coffee brewing, but on this particular day the scent was so strong I could almost see it meandering around the corner and swirling around me, like in a scene from a cartoon.

I stepped over to my desk and flipped open a small black notebook I’d placed next to my keyboard. Uncapping a pen, I wrote the first thing that came to mind:

8:15. Smelling coffee. ARRGH.

That Monday was Day 1 of a 10-day Daniel fast my church was participating in. Inspired by Daniel 10:3, in which Daniel determines to forgo “choice food” in order to demonstrate humility before the Lord and to gain understanding, our pastors called us to eat simple foods for 10 days, and to add additional prayer and Bible study to our daily routines. Refined foods, sugar, dairy, and yeast were out, in favor of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Also on the “no” list? Caffeine.

The journal I kept during the first couple days records my adjustment to the routine in stream-of-consciousness style.

Early that morning, I jotted a quick prayer. Because I’ve restricted myself from particular kinds or amounts of food before, I needed help focusing on the spiritual purpose of this fast, rather than any physical benefits that might accompany the healthier diet. I didn’t want to diet when the calling was to fast.

Around 8:30, I noted that I was responding to some minor interruptions with more irritation than I normally would have. I was challenged by the thought that my pleasant demeanor might actually reflect a sated tongue rather than a contented soul.

Mid-morning, I’d started to think about how, by challenging my routine choices, the fast was building some spiritual muscle. “I’m wondering now about my capacity to do hard things,” I wrote. “Have I let that part of me atrophy?”

By 3:45 Monday afternoon, I’d already tired of oatmeal, apples, and lentil soup. I opened the notebook again: “Burrito with shredded chicken and sour cream. I sure hope I start having more spiritual thoughts soon.”

Before the fast began, a friend and I prayerfully decided to increase our intake of Scripture. For me, that meant unearthing some Bible CDs I had and listening to them during a leg of my long daily commute.

As I slid one into the CD player, I recognized my resistance to this change—and realized I often rely on “pre-processed” spiritual insight. My preference is often for music in which someone else has done the hard spiritual work of connecting with God, or for programs in which someone else reflects on his or her interpretation of Scripture and what it means for our lives. Listening to the texts without this kind of mediation was challenging for me. I prayed that God would allow me to crave “unprocessed” encounters with him and with Scripture in the same way I was experiencing physical cravings for a tall, skim vanilla latte.

Although I was pleased when our fast ended nine days later, I was also grateful for the experience, and for the connections it helped me make between my physical and spiritual lives. The challenge of fasting by type of food helped me to think more deeply about issues of physical and spiritual satiety, and to explore the parallels between the pleasure of processed foods and the fleeting satisfaction they provide. I continued to pray for a “fasting” mentality vs. a “dieting” mindset. And as time went on, I enjoyed my unmediated encounters with the Bible more than I had before.

I’m curious: What challenges have you experienced as the result of a fast? What insights has fasting brought to your life, and have they become part of your daily spiritual life? Also, what advice would you offer someone who is beginning to incorporate fasting into her life with God?

Related Tags: Fasting, spiritual disciplines

Comments

Thank you for this honest insight. I, too find it easier when my encounters with God are "processed." You have challenged me to examine my quiet times with Him.

I am fasting from TV for Lent. I am on day 17 and it's been hard but well worth it. My spiritual senses are more alert and my ability to discern with great peace and clarity has been a blessing. God has used this time to open my eyes to the importance of guarding what I allow my eyes to see, ears to hear, mind to think, heart to feel and tongue to speak. My advice to those seeking a fast is to cover it in prayer and allow the Lord to lead them to what he desires that they give up. Spiritual meat is more satisfying than any form of TV entertainment.

My husband and I have been doing a Daniel Fast since Ash Wednesday and are continuing on throughout Easter. It helps to remember that it is not a diet but rather a fast, and Jesus assumed his followers would fast. That's enough reason for me. The book The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory has been a great help guiding us through the process.

You really had some great insights as a result of the Daniel fast. I would say to anyone, especially a young woman struggling with body/dieting/eating issues to really have a ton of accountability if you were to participate in something like this. I did a Daniel fast and it was something that helped to fuel an eating disorder. I know that it did not cause the eating disorder, many many factors go into an eating disorder, but it did contribute. Please please please, if you decide to do this or any sort of fast, have good accountability throughout the fast and maybe even more importantly, after. I am in the middle of working through a 5-year struggle with an eating disorder and though God is working in amazing ways through it and is redeeming the time I spent engaging in the behaviors, it is the most difficult thing I have done in my life and has broken my heart that I have broken the heart of God. I don't mean this to sound preachy, just wanted to give a warning. Bless you all!

I remember doing the Daniel Fast the first time about 6.5 years ago. I had never fasted and was just beginning to learn about intimacy with God. I'll admit that the purpose for the fast was a financial miracle I needed and so I set out on a 21 day Daniel Fast, quietly and not telling anyone. The sensitivity I experienced to the Holy Spirit was absolutely amazing. The headaches and irritability from caffeine withdrawals was hideous. All I can say is that on day 7 I received the most incredible financial miracle and on day 21 came an unsolicited miracle. The first few days were incredibly difficult but I noticed that the more I focused on God's word and his works, the more satisfying the bland vegetables and fruits became and the less I craved eating "regular" foods. It was a transforming experience. I have been thinking about going into a 21 day fast and prayer again as I am needing a release of God's supernatural power right now in my life. Thanks for the post. It was somewhat of a confirmation of what I need to be doing.

Why not a full fast, and just avoid all foods? True Daniel fasted this way, but other examples from scripture talk about cutting out ALL foods completely. Its definitely a lot harder, but its much more of a humbling experience when you know that you can't cheat with eating some foods.

What if for health reasons you already follow the daily Daniel fast diet of only fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains as your basic diet? Especially if you find it delicious? Should you instead focus on eliminating or cutting back on TV or time spent online?

Praise God for your testimony. Today I have begun a 3 day fast and am really struggling. Will you please pray for me?

I really liked what you said about encountering God through unprocessed material. That has inspired me to put aside books and worship cds during my fast, rather I will focus on the bible and worship in my own song and words during my fast. Thank you

I have also been fasting in the last 3 days, and is still planning to fast for the remaining week. The problem is during my fasting activity, I often get very weak and limp that I don't have the energy to do my daily activities normally, including religion related activities. How should I act to settle this weak feeling when fasting?

@Erik. In a lot of ways - given the cultural, socioeconomic and other consideration i strongly feel that giving up 'choice' food can be interpreted differently and that , YES, giving up TV and other things that may be 'choice' to you do amount to the same thing as what Daniel aimed at by living on veggies and water in his situation then. There are the purists and there are those that feel that within reason the Daniel fast can be adapted to individual's needs. In my country and my situation rice and other foods on the usual Daniel Fast food list are 'choice'. Its the point of the fast that matters the most, and whats going on between God and you

I am in the middle of working through a 5-year struggle with an eating disorder and though God is working in amazing ways through it and is redeeming the time I spent engaging in the behaviors, it is the most difficult thing I have done in my life and has broken my heart that I have broken the heart of God.

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