As you read Scripture, you will discover people fasted in different ways. They would abstain from different kinds of foods and then do so for different periods of times. In our modern age, as we are saturated by the "marketing culture" and entrenched in the pervasive nature of all media forms, a different fast has been added, called a Media Fast.
Scripture encourages four kinds of fasts, and our modern times have precipitated two more.
Let’s start by categorizing the different types of fasting found in and outside of Scripture.
Fasts Encouraged in Scripture
1. Holy Spirit-Empowered Fast (no water or food: Acts 9:9, Esther 4:15-16)
2. Traditional Fast (water only: Judges 20:26, Ezra 10:6-17, Jonah 3:10, Luke 2:37, Acts 13:1-3, 14:23)
3. Partial/Daniel Fast (restrict certain food and drink categories: Daniel 1:12, 10:2-3)
4. Sexual Fast (sexual abstinence with spouse: 1 Corinthians 7:3-6)
Fasts Common in Our Times But Not Specifically Found in Scriptures
1. Intermittent Fast (only eating during a small daily window, for example, 4-6pm)
2. Media Fast (restriction of all media involvement)
As we have mentioned, fasting has enormous benefits spiritually. Jesus can use your season of fasting to:
tighten your relationship with God,
tune you more clearly to God’s voice,
break bad habits and addictions,
and finally reveal how fragile and dependent we are on Christ.
Let's jump into the physical benefits of fasting. With fasting being so spiritually focused, why take time to ponder the physical issues? Simple— the physical benefits of fasting spill over into our spiritual life, just like the spiritual benefits of fasting spill over into our physical lives.
Here are some of the physical benefits of fasting:
Fasting can help break sugar addiction.
Fasting can encourage wholesome weight loss.
Fasting can promote healthy digestion and elimination.
Fasting can aid the body in proper detoxification.
Fasting can strengthen proper hormonal balance.
Fasting can assist in reducing inflammation issues.
Fasting can help eliminate brain fog.
Fasting can boost balanced energy levels.
Remember God created you a hardwired, whole person. Your spirit, soul, and body are all interconnected (1 Thessalonians 5:23). You are a spirit living in a body, and when your body is healthy and responding correctly, your "mind" and "spirit" are far more fit to respond to and be susceptible to Christ's leadings. Your physical health and spiritual health are linked, so no doubt God wants us to take personal interest in our physical health to be more spiritually fit in every way, that we may enjoy this abundant life He has promised (John 10:10).
I realize our culture obsesses over our bodies, how we look and how we feel. Just because we obsess over our bodies does not make our bodies evil. God wants the care of our bodies to be God-honoring and completely dedicated to His glory.
My Doctor's Advice
When I was going through my heart health issues a few years back, my doctor sought to educate me regarding digestion and overall health. He began by discussing with me how my body and especially my digestive tract were far more exposed to environmental threats than I had likely thought. At times I had mocked and made jokes about these threats and snickered away their seriousness. Not anymore— these threats should be considered, and our spiritual lives should not be held hostage to our appetites. When our belly becomes our god, we not only jeopardize our bodies but our spiritual lives (Philippians 3:19).
These food-threats against our bodies include the common suspects: bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxins.
Have you ever thought about where most of your immune system is located?— in your digestive tract. If your body is going to fight off disease, your immune system needs to be in its best shape. To be in its best shape means we give care to our digestive tract. I know it sounds odd, but it is no less true.
Here is how my doctor educated me a couple of years ago. It went something like this: "Jess, the foods you eat are broken down in your intestines. From there, it travels through your blood system and is then carried to the liver. Your liver is the detoxification organ of your body. The liver does the work of breaking down your blood and essentially removes the toxic by-products produced as you were digesting your food. This would include the chemicals typically present in the common foods you eat, especially processed foods and butchered meat.” Yes, that long appointment and the book he made me buy and read did feel like they were taking some of the fun out of eating.
The Junk in the Junk We Eat
I hate to do this, but giving a day to think about our bodies as we prepare to fast is something I sense would be healthy. Here are just some of the toxins we send to our livers to clean up.
1. Pesticides— eat foods synthetic pesticide-free.
2. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), a declared carcinogen— check the ingredients, especially in oils.
3. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/rBST) — be careful of the milk and meat products. There is a heavy link here to colon cancer. Seek to consume grass-fed dairy products and meat.
4. Sodium Aluminum Sulphate and Potassium Aluminum Sulphate— watch out for a number of foods, processed cheese products, microwave popcorn, baked goods, and other processed food. Read the ingredient list to avoid this toxin.
5. Bisphenol-A (BPA) — this is found in food and beverage can linings— ouch, very sorry. Yes, avoid canned foods. It still leaves you with fresh, dried, and frozen foods.
6. Sodium Nitrite/Nitrate— this is the stuff in deli foods. For the bologna fan, too bad. Watch the ingredient list of many foods.
7. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons— a carcinogen that forms when the fat on meat is cooked over high heat. Trim the meat and cook slower over lower flames.
8. Acrylamide— a carcinogen that forms when you cook starchy food at high temperatures. Avoid fried foods, snack chips, crackers, toasted cereals, cookies, and bread crusts.
9. Artificial Food Coloring/Dyes— these chemicals are believed to be linked to neurological disorders such as ADHD. Read the ingredient lists to avoid.|
10. Dioxins— found to collect in fatty foods of all kinds and are linked to all kinds of disease. Choose lower fat foods or animals that graze exclusively on grass.
11. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) — found in 70% of all processed foods containing things like corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, etc. This may lead to a variety of difficulties such as immune disorders, accelerated aging, and intestinal issues. Go certified organic. Because this does not make the ingredient list, it is hard to know if it is in the food or not. Products labeled "certified organic" will not have GMOs.
No, this list is not complete and you can buy books and go to websites to drench yourselves in information. The above are the key ones I think about and have led to changes in how I eat.
I have listed below just a few of the websites from where I developed my composite list above.
Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief eunuch not to defile himself. "'Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and deal with your servants based on what you see.’ He agreed with them about this and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food." Daniel 1:8,12-15 CSB
One of the first things King Nebuchadnezzar did once Daniel was exiled in Babylon was to change Daniel’s name to Belteshazzar. Think about it. The king had the power to change Daniel's name, but Nebuchadnezzar could not change Daniel's nature.
Daniel took an early stand regarding food.
Daniel had been taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon, and, as a youth, was astute in wisdom and intellect and was made to serve in Nebuchadnezzar's court. The king sought to have Daniel eat the best of the Babylonian diet so Daniel and his friends would be in the fittest of shape. Essentially, Daniel refused to be corrupted by the addictive eating habits of the Babylonians. He wanted no part in eating the king's delicacies; he wanted none of his wine nor did he want to eat the meat that had not been properly prepared.
It is unlikely that Daniel refused the food only on the ground that it was ceremonially unclean. In the Old Testament, Moses had given some ceremonial laws about foods that Jews could and could not eat. Certainly Daniel would have thought about the food laws of the Old Testament, but so much of the ceremonial system was out the window with the Jews having been torn away from the temple and essentially taken as prisoners to Babylon. Second, the king's wine would have been on Moses' recommended list and some, if not all, of the delicacies would have been acceptable. The only real issue would have been certain cuts of meat or meat killed in a proper way.
No, Daniel's food issue was much deeper than just wanting to eat a ceremonially clean diet. Daniel was watching the way the Babylonians were eating and noticing the addictive nature in the way they ate their foods and obsessed over their meals.
Daniel became resolute in seeking not to eat as the Babylonians ate.
With all of this in sight, Daniel sought permission in the form of a test to eat only vegetables for ten days and then measure the performance and the physical shape of him and his friends against those given the Babylon diet of highly sweetened and greasy foods, chased down with lavish amounts of alcohol.
Even this 10-day, what we call Daniel fast, had a visible result on Daniel and his friends. The four men looked visibly and measurably healthier than the junk food-eating group.
Daniel participated in this kind of a fast later in his life. He records it in Daniel 10:2 where he entered a 21-day vegetable fast. It was on that fast when God came to him and showed him history-shaping events to take place after his death.
There is something about getting the junk out of our diet that makes our bodies even more healthy and able to hear and listen to God's voice. The things God wishes to show and say will no doubt shape our lives in ways we can never imagine.
Let's consider some of the foods involved in a Daniel fast. Vegetables, fruits, and water— things rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants— all of the things that add vibrancy to your physical life.
These foods are known to halt bodily inflammation and oxidation. The foods you eat on a Daniel fast are the most essential foods necessary for strengthening your body's collagen. What is collagen? Collagen is the main component of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bones and is the sheet of connective tissue just beneath the skin. It stabilizes and encloses muscles and organs. It is what keeps your heart healthy and free from needing stents or bypasses. It gives your skin elasticity.
So here comes today's decision. How about doing a Daniel fast for the rest of your fast? You are on the tenth day of your fast with eleven more days to go. How about abstaining from everything except fruits and vegetables? How about giving your liver a break, and over the next ten to eleven days eating nothing but fresh vegetables and fruit?
I know this might sound like a huge commitment, but as you take ten to eleven days to focus on a Daniel fast, you might discover that the Holy Spirit will change your entire relationship with food. You just might discover a life of health that you had never known possible. As you develop a right relationship with food for the sake of walking with Jesus, there is no telling what will end up being your story.
If you have a health condition or medical issue, of course do not hesitate to consult your doctor.
For a quick list of Daniel fast foods, you can go to one of many websites.
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date.
Next, write your commitment. It might be worded something like this:
“Jesus, I seek by Your grace not only to fast a meal a day but to also participate in a Daniel fast by eating fruits and vegetables over the next eleven days.”
Finally, go to your "Daily Journal" and write the date at the top of the page.
Begin writing a prayer asking for God's help to take you through the next eleven days. Most Americans have food addictions of some sort, so seek to trim some foods from your diet over the next eleven days. This can be emotional for some as food has become a form of worship. The Apostle Paul speaks of those who are "enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame— who set their mind on earthly things" (Philippians 3:18-19 NKJV). Food consumption can be very much a part of a person's worship as they seek to find comfort in food and not the ever-present God.
Ask for Jesus to help you map out how you are going to approach eating over the next eleven days. Maybe confess attitudes toward foods you seek God's grace to help you overcome.
Whatever you do, lean into Jesus for His help. The goal is not to become a legalistic eater, but a person who gains a right perspective and enjoyment of food, not allowing it to dominate your life. Remember, you want a healthy body to bring glory to God, not selfish lusts.
While you are going to work on what you will fast, do not lose sight that weight loss and eating right are not the ultimate goal— knowing Jesus is (Philippians 3:10).