What I Learned on a 21-Day Daniel Fast

I recently participated in a church-wide fast. Typically my church engages in a 3-day full fast (no food at all for those who wish to participate and are medically able) every year in January. But this year the leadership felt we needed to change things up.

A Daniel Fast restricts you to eating only fruits, vegetables and (for some people) whole grains. No meat, no dairy or animal products, no sweeteners (although some people use honey, maple syrup or stevia, I felt led to abstain), and no baked goods. Did I mention no chocolate? It's based on the book of Daniel, chapter 10, if you're curious.

Although I have fasted often throughout the years, it remains difficult for me, because fasting always stirs up deep memories of painful hunger from my childhood. In that respect, this time was easier because I could eat as many fruits and veggies as I wanted. I particularly liked the longevity of this fast. It wasn't a simple 3-day thing. It was a persevering thing. It was a learning to deny myself thing. It was a get in God's face thing.

On this fast, I learned:

1. I reach out for food far more than I reach out for Jesus. This revelation floored me. Yes, God designed us to require food, but I noticed how often I absentmindedly reached for some morsel just to have something in my mouth. I'm amazed at the number of times I think about food. Good grief. God, help me desire you more than any earthly thing...even things that I truly need!

2. I can pray far more often. I profess to be a woman of prayer, but this fast taught me to pray even more. Every time I craved chocolate (or any forbidden food), I'd pray instead, and let me just say, I prayed constantly. If only my prayers were as continual as my cravings. Lord, help me to pray without ceasing!
3. A fast is warfare. I encountered an incredible amount of opposition from the enemy, particularly in my emotions. At times it felt like I was walking blindly forward in a raging blizzard, with a frozen, tear-stained scarf stuck to my cheeks. God tries our emotions (Psalm 7:9, "for You, Who try the hearts and emotions and thinking powers, are a righteous God.") Healing is a process, so I cry out, God, continue to heal my heart and emotions!

4. A fast is powerful. I've already begun seeing breakthrough in specific areas for which I prayed. But I'm expecting much more throughout 2010.

5. To stop complaining--even in my thoughts. Let's face it, America has more food than most of the world. I felt chastised for even allowing myself to inwardly grumble about yet more veggies when so many others have so much less. We are incredibly blessed, and although I always thank God for my food, I felt a deeper sense of appreciation--and a reluctance to complain about eating beans for dinner again. Help me to cultivate a grateful heart, Lord!
6. The amount of sin still in my own heart. Fasting opens our eyes about ourselves like nothing else. Our hearts become tender and more acutely aware of God's still, small voice. That's a good thing. It's layer by layer that He reveals the truth to us, and it's truth we need to face, confess, and be free of. It's the truth that makes us free. (John 8:32) Thank you, Lord, for ever increasing freedom.
7. A fast is about trading the temporal for the eternal. When we willingly give up something we desire (lasagna and chocolate lava cake) for something we yearn to desire far more (Jesus), I believe it grabs God's attention. Yes, I gave up my favorite foods for three weeks. But in return, I touched God's heart in a powerful way--and He touched mine.
I'm still processing everything I experienced in this fast, but I believe God accomplished great things, and I'm excited about what He has in store for me and my family.
How about you? Have you ever participated in a fast? What did you learn from it?


Diane said...

That is a powerful list of things you learned. I do find myself emotionally eating at times instead of turning to God. Good reminder to just pause and head toward Him and not the kitchen! :O)

Dan King said...

Having done the same fast with you, I can really appreciate the things that you've learned from it. I've also learned many of the same things, but the whole reliance on surplus of food that we have here was the big thing for me. Between my mission trip to Kenya and Uganda last year and things like this fast, I cannot help but to think of Americans (generally spoeaking) as being quite gluttonous.

Myself included.

Sad really...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts like this Julie! I really appreciate you!

Bonita said...

Julie, I loved reading your perspective and lessons learned from the fast. Those are some powerful things!

I went gluten-free for January. I knew God wanted me to do it for January, but I tagged on February and very quickly learned that the grace had lifted and January was enough.

I agree that when we deprive our flesh of something it makes us reach out and hunger for God more. He fills the places the food would have filled before. Also, the simple act of obedience leads us to a new place in our relationship with the Lord.

Thanks so much for sharing. Next time I fast I'll stop by and remind myself of the benefits.

Karen said...

Julie, your list of principles learned is amazing. God will do a great work from that. Oh, man, I would have to pray a LOT more if denied chocolate! I could feel your heart and passion in your post. Thanks dear one.

Tammy said...

I have fasted before but only for 12hrs,lately I've been giving this Daniel fast some thought.

Thank you for sharing the things that you have learned.

Anonymous :) said...

Perfect way to start a year. I did this with my church last year and wish I had joined in this year. I learned #4, fasting is powerful.

Jodie said...

Enjoyed your post, Julie

I found myself,and this is typical of me during a fast,thinking of foods I wish I could it that I never thought about before. And we were already eating this way as it was, pretty much.

But, the main this for me was this. The things I thought I had dealt with in my heart I found some were still hanging out there. Just like Pastor spoke about this Sunday concerning the "little foxes" that rob the vines, well I still had some and the Holy Spirit was gently showing me that and removing them from my "heart vineyard".

God is faithful to complete the work He has begun in is...IF WE LET HIM!

Paula Wiseman said...

What a great post! I so appreciate your heart toward fasting, both in approach and in the takeaways. So many times, it seems people use a fast as a way to manipulate God into doing what they want. (If I FAST, then He has to... 'cause then He'll see how serious I am.)That blessed intimacy with God- what a wondrous awesome things. May the blessings continue!

Kelly said...

I have never fasted. I am considering doing the Daniel fast, but am also worried that I will fail. Thanks for the insights.

Sue J. said...

I have only done day-long/prayer-based fasts. Every time I felt hungry, it just reminded me to look up, be still, get focused and pray. It took any attention of me, my needs, and placed it all on Him and His healing power to work in another.

Can we take the lessons learned from a fast and continue to apply them, whether in plenty or in want? As you continue forward from this point, I pray that God will continue to remind you of your lessons learned, that you can see Him working more and more.

B His Girl said...

I did a 3 day fast near the first of the year. I had a dream on the 3rd day of Jesus being so close to me. He was in the room. He let me ask Him question after question. He wanted me to know He cared about all the things I did. I have thought about doing the Daniel fast. I have no doubt I would discover many of the same things you did. Thanks for sharing.

Bina said...

SO powerful!!!

I have also fasted and found that all of the truths you have listed to be evident in my own life. Even now, not in a fast, I found your #1 screaming: "I reach out for food far more than I reach out for Jesus."

I am not really hungry, therefore I don't really want food...or at least the food that only fills my stomach.

Wonderful, wonderful post!

Unknown said...

Love, love, love this post! You are so eloquent with words.

Your words have helped me solidify some of what I received as well. I guess that’s a good sign of a writer when you can speak the heart of others. 

One of my biggest prayers through the fast was just greater intimacy with Him because from that all things line up and flow. Having this in mind, I kind of felt spiritually off throughout the fast and couldn’t figure out “why” I didn’t feel moved by Him. Then I remembered it’s not about the “feeling” or “movement of the Spirit”, but more about obedience and a heart toward Him. So I persevered out of obedience.

A week or so after we had finished I woke up one morning just feeling “buzzy” (I have no other word). It seemed like I had went through spiritual metamorphous while I was sleeping and I awoke feeling like I was ONE with Him, and not just the cliché of the phrase “one with Him”, but I sensed it to my very core. I had such an array of emotions that wanted to surface all at once that I was just simply “buzzy”. I wanted to run tell everyone, “can you feel it?”...it was so sweet and good I wanted to share it and for everyone to sense His presence that brings ALL things relevant to YOU...PERSONAL, UNIQUE, INTIMACY!

I feel like God has so much more to reveal to me in response to those 21 days, but I definitely feel closer intimacy with Him.

Rose said...

Such a powerful honest post. I would love to say that I have fasted for reasons other than medically demanded ones.
Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts on this.

Tonya said...

I've done the Daniel fast before. Talk about killing the flesh!

I learned a lot about how fasting and prayer can make a huge difference in our life situations. I also realized that there are more things to eat that are better for me besides the junk that I had been eating.

This was a wonderful post and it reminded me once again of the importance of regular fasting.

Have a blessed day!

Nancy said...

What an accomplishment. You did learn a lot. I have done longer fasts where I give up certain things. It always brings me closer to God and helps me see how ungrateful I am for the things He has given me.

Melinda said...

Wow, great stuff, Julie! Because of my health conditions, I feel like I am on a never-ending Daniel fast. Sometimes, I get really depressed. Why can't I just eat like a normal person? But I also know that God has taught me a tremendous amount through it -- discipline, willpower, denying myself, depending on Him for strength. I must admit, though, I really long to dive into a big ol' piece of chocolate cake now and then without knowing I'll pay the price! I'm sure YOU can relate to that! ;0)

Tea with Tiffany said...

I've fasted on my own a number of times and I find it healing and hard, but always worth the sacrifice. I loved what you shared about your fasting this time around. I've had some amazing visuals come to mind during times of fasting. It's like God speaks louder and I'm more apt to listen and respond.

God bless your journey.

Hugs from Colorado!

Terri Tiffany said...

I have never willingly fasted but I know those who have are happy they did:)
The funny part of this is the diet you used is about how I eat all the time!

Bridget said...

Wow Julie...congratulations. It's amazing what God can teach us when we trully focus on Him. Thanks for sharing and being so encouraging. I have done a Daniel fast for 10 days, but not the 21. I want to though. Just curious...did your family participate? (I did mine by myself, and that was hard.)

Colleen Reske said...

I have never fasted before because of hypoglycemia, but the Daniel fast is one I could do, and in fact, being a vegetarian, could shift to, just mostly giving up my beloved sugar! Reading your post and the experiences shared here makes me want to try this to experience it myself. Thanks for the information. I, too, suffered childhood hunger. I never thought of it before, but those memories are tied to painful emotions. Another thing to work through with God!

Lisa Smith said...

my favorite part is trading the temporal for the eternal...especially in a lifestyle of abstaining. i have been feeling led to adopt the Daniel lifestyle. great post!

prashant said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts like this Julie! I really appreciate you!
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Anonymous said...


I'm HUGE on the discipline of fasting. I have seen mountains moved as a result. In my younger years, when I first became a Christian and heard some solid teaching on the discipline, I did a couple of strict 40-day fasts. (When I gave my life to the Lord, I was ALL IN!) Now, as I'm a little older and a heart condition I've had since childhood (you can pray for that) doesn't allow me to fast as strictly, I seek God on how He wants me to practice this important part of my intercessory life. Thank you for being so bold as to talk about it!

Anonymous said...

Thank u Julie, i now know the usefulness of fast,and the different type of fast. Thank u and GOd bless u!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amen!

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