Types of Fasts
When most people think of fasting, the first image that usually comes to mind is of a person going without food for several days and drinking only water, broth, and juice. Although fasting comes in a variety of forms, there are basically three types: Absolute, Liquid and Partial.
An absolute fast is a fast from all food and liquids for a few days, which is what the Apostle Paul experienced after the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). Another example is when Queen Esther sent a message through Mordecai, asking the Jews to fast with her before she went to see the king. She said, “Do not eat or drink for three days” (Esther 4:16).
A liquid fast involves eliminating food for a period of time and consuming only water, fruit juices, and vegetable juices. The Bible does not mention a liquid fast specifically, but it’s an option that many people choose, especially when fasting for more than two or three days. This type of fast is not quite as taxing on the body as an absolute fast, and there is typically no danger of dehydration if adequate liquid is consumed.
On a partial fast, certain foods are removed from the diet for a specific length of time. The prophet Daniel chose to undergo a partial fast when he sought the Lord. His fasting experiences form the basis of the Daniel Fast.
The Daniel Fast
Participating in a Daniel Fast requires eliminating commonly enjoyed foods for twenty-one days as an act of worship and of consecrating oneself to God. Foods that are allowed are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and oils. Restricted foods include dairy, meat, sugar, all forms of sweeteners, yeast, refined and processed foods, deep-fried foods, and solid fats.
You don’t have to be a spiritual giant to do a Daniel Fast. It’s for anyone who is hungry for a deeper connection with the Lord and who is also willing to make a three-week commitment to the spiritual discipline of fasting as a means of pursuing that connection. Because it is a partial fast, as opposed to an absolute or liquid fast, participants are able to eat a wide variety of foods. For this reason, the Daniel Fast is a good entry-level fast. However, if you have a medical condition or any health concerns, you should consult with your physician before beginning any type of fast, including the Daniel Fast.
The guidelines of the modern-day Daniel Fast are based on the fasting experiences of the prophet Daniel. We follow his example not so much because his diet is worth emulating as because his heart is worth emulating. In the book of Daniel, chapters 1 and 10, we discover how Daniel’s passion for God caused him to long for spiritual food more than physical food, which is the ultimate desire of anyone choosing to participate in a fast.
Fasting is the example set by Jesus
First and foremost, we should fast because Jesus fasted. Before Jesus healed the ten lepers, before he raised Lazarus from the dead, and before he went to the cross, Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying (Matthew 4:1-11). He didn’t even begin his public ministry until he had spent that time along with the Father in preparation for what God had called him to do. If Jesus, the Son of God, recognized the importance of fasting in his life, shouldn’t we as well?
Fasting is an intense battle
In Daniel 10, we get a glimpse of what occurs in the spiritual realm when we fast and pray. The Bible says that twenty-four days after he started his fast, Daniel was visited by a heavenly messenger, which most Bible scholars believe was the angel Gabriel. The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set you mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days” (versus 12-13). Daniel’s prayers were heard immediately, but the answers didn’t come right away. There was a fierce battle in the heavenlies as Daniel prayed and fasted, and God’s messenger was detained on the way by the opposition of the powers of darkness.
The battle is both physical and spiritual when you fast. First, you are at war with your own flesh – your body and its passions – because your flesh wants no part of it. Also, you’re fighting against the enemy of your soul, whose ultimate goal is to defeat you. But you don’t need to be paralyzed by fear. The all-powerful, all-knowing, almighty God is on your side. He fights for you and will give you victory as you trust in him. Remember, you are more than a conqueror in Christ (Romans 8:37). The battle has already been won!
During the Fast – Spiritual Preparation
During the Fast – Physical Preparation
Feola, K. (2010). The Ultimate Guide To the Daniel Fast. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.