With Advent upon us, my family decided yesterday to attempt a devotion we’ve been hearing more and more about. It’s called “The Daniel Fast,” a type of fast patterned on the first chapter of Daniel. I have included some excerpts from the first chapter of Daniel below, as well as a link to the entire chapter. Spend some time with the scripture before embarking on this fast.
So how does this fast work? The type of fast many of us are most familiar with is the lenten fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: we eat only our three meals those particular days, two of them very small; we cut down our portion sizes and abstain from meat; we eliminate eating between meals; some take it to the max by eating only bread and water for their meals on fast days. We also carry the abstinence from meat through all Fridays of lent, and make a personal sacrifice throughout the 40 days.
The Eastern churches approach fasting differently—fasting from particular foods for periods of time, such as eggs, cheese, etc., rather than focusing on portions and amounts. The Daniel fast is similar, as it prohibits specific foods continuously throughout a prescribed period of time. The concern is not with portions, but with dietary choices: “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's rich food, or with the wine which he drank.” Daniel only ate “vegetables,” as our translation of scripture states. This means he ate only foods that are grown from seed: fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, lentils, and grains. He also only drank water.
Advent is an excellent length of time to try a Daniel fast. There are a number of ways to approach this fast. The only definitives would be no “rich foods, no wine” so no animal proteins, no alcohol.
Determine how you want to approach the fast days. Do you want to fast every day through the entire season? Fast during the week and eat normally on weekends? Choose a three-or four-day block each week to fast? Tailor how you approach the fast to your life and abilities. For example, my family is fasting Monday-Saturday and taking a break on Sunday.
Howq strictly will you follow the dietary fast? Again, that’s up to you. If you want to just cut out the animal protein and alcohol, or if you want to broaden your definition of “rich foods” to include desserts, breads, candy, or anything that might be a food vice, it’s totally up to you. My family is cutting out, in addition to the animal protein, eggs, dairy products, desserts of any kind. We are keeping pastas and whole grain breads.
Will you drink only water, or will you allow for coffee, tea, and fruit juices? It’s totally up to you and your family’s needs. We are cutting alcohol, milk, drinks with sugar, and keeping coffee, tea, and milk alternatives.
Will you include snacks or cut those out too? Some people need to munch at their desks, or are just used to having a snack at a certain time. If you want the snacks, keep them. Just replace your snacks with foods on the fast.
Remember, this fast is not about quantity. Eat and drink enough. This is about detaching from our earthly desires, and turning to Christ for what will satisfy our souls. As we begin to miss what we love to eat and drink, give thanks to Jesus for offering himself as the greatest sacrifice for us, and unite your sacrifice to His, for all of the intentions you hold in your heart.
Excerpts from Daniel chapter one:
The king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, handsome and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to serve in the king's palace, and to teach them the letters and language of the Chaldeans.
The king assigned them a daily portion of the rich food which the king ate, and of the wine which he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Misha-el, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's rich food, or with the wine which he drank; therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
The chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear lest my lord the king, who appointed your food and your drink, should see that you were in poorer condition than the youths who are of your own age. So you would endanger my head with the king."
Then Daniel said to the steward, "Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's rich food be observed by you, and according to what you see deal with your servants."
So he hearkened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's rich food. So the steward took away their rich food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
(Read the entire chapter here.)