Do you want to live healthier and make healthy choices in your eating? Do you need healing for a specific condition?
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen…[that] your healing
shall spring forth speedily” (Isa. 58:6,8).
Many people who joined Pursuit 21 listed breaking unhealthy eating habits as one of their reasons for fasting. Do you want to take care of your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, in the coming year? Would you too like to stop binge eating and break addiction to sweets? The Scriptural principles of the Daniel Fast apply to your situation.
The Daniel Fast in this context refers to the Scriptural precedent and promises of Daniel’s fast in Daniel chapter one, not to specific foods that are consumed. In the Daniel Fast – as with the Ezra Fast, Saint Paul Fast, Samuel Fast, John the Baptist Fast and the Elijah Fast – we are looking at specific ways God responds to fasting. What God did in the lives of these men in response to their fast, He can do in response to yours.
Background to Daniel’s Fast
Daniel was taken into Babylonian captivity as a young man. He and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were being trained as diplomats to serve in the Babylonian government. King Nebuchadnezzar likely planned to have them administer policies over the Jewish people. The training program included being served fine delicacies and wine from the king’s table (Da. 1:5). But that food was not acceptable to the Hebrews. Daniel proposed to the king’s servants that they be allowed to “fast” from the king’s rich foods, and instead be allowed to eat only vegetables and drink only water (v.12). If after 10 days, they were not in better condition than the young men who ate the royal food, Daniel promised they could be dealt with as the guards desired (v.13).
At the end of the 10-day period, Daniel and his friends were healthier in body and mind than the men who were served food from the king’s table. As a result of his faithfulness, Daniel lived a long life. Captured by Nebuchadnezzar as a teen, he lived until the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, 73 years later. He was over 90 years old when he died.
The LORD Who Heals
When we fast and pray for health and healing, we must remember that God is a God who heals. His name is Jehovah Rapha, which mean, “I am the LORD who heals you” (Ex. 15:26). We claim the precepts of the Daniel fast when we enter a fast for healing from a sickness or as prevention to keep us from becoming sick (to acquire healthy eating habits to prevent disease).
In his book, Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough, Elmer describes an instance of a curative healing. Dr. Towns is co-founder and Vice-President of Liberty University as well as the Dean of Religion. Enrolled in his course, “Spiritual Factors of Church Growth,” was a student with tremendous back pain. Kevin injured his back delivering packages in order to work his way through school. Dr. Towns gave the class an assignment to fast for a project and/or faith event. Kevin had such severe back pain that he had to often stand in the classroom during the lecture. In February 1995, Kevin pitched a tent in his backyard. He spent three days fasting and praying, neither eating nor drinking. He prayed for deliverance from pain and for healing. “Withholding food and drink was not the difficult part,” Kevin said. “It got extremely cold in that tent!” At the end of the 3-day fast, Kevin fasted for 21-days, taking only liquid and juice. “The pain is completely gone!” Kevin exclaimed three months later. God healed him of his pain as a result of his fast. [i]
When fasting for healing or to break unhealthy eating habits, take the following steps: [ii]
Step 1: Be Specific.
Daniel was specific in his objection to the Babylonian diet. His objection could have cost him his life, but he was specific about his plan. Daniel felt partaking in the king’s food was a test of his faith – he didn’t want to “defile himself with the royal food and wine” (v. 8). He also wanted a strong physical body in which to serve God. When fasting we should have a specific plan beforehand of what we will eat and not eat. Waiting to see how we feel , or letting it depend on what’s available at the moment will not work. We have to be specific from the start…and stick with it.
Step 2: Fast as a Spiritual Commitment.
Fasting is more than a mere change in diet – even if you are fasting to break bondages of bad eating habits or to establish a healthier way of living. Daniel’s fast was a spiritual commitment to God. He “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (v. 8). For Daniel, the fast began as a commitment between himself and God. I don’t know about you, but I don’t stick to diets well at all. But when I purpose to fast and my eating choices are an outer reflection of an inner spiritual commitment, I have no problem keeping to the fast I have chosen. Fast as a spiritual commitment.
Step 3: Remain in Constant Prayer.
In Toxic Relief, Dr. Don Colbert states that, “We may be actually starving from a nutritional standpoint, while at the same time becoming grossly obese…Sadly, we really are digging our graves with our forks and knives!” This sad physical fact illustrates a spiritual one. We are over nourished on a diet of church programs and activities, religious structure and traditions, yet we are malnourished when comes to deeper things of God. Dr. Colbert says that the single best most effective answer to overnourishment is fasting. It cleanses the body of toxins, reversing overnourishment and the diseases it brings. It ensures a great future of renewed energy, vitality, longevity, and blessed health.
When you fast, pray! Get down to real nourishment for your spirit man. Dive into the deeper things of God and allow Him to cleanse sin and impurities and fill you with His Spirit.
Pray to Make the Healthy Choice. As you fast, ask for God’s wisdom to make healthy choices in your diet throughout the year. Ask Him to lead you to good resources that will educate you about healthy eating and the best way to maintain your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
As you pray to make the healthy choice with eating, ask God to enable you to make healthy choices throughout the year that will nourish your spirit as well. Perhaps that means less television and more time in the Word. Maybe it means less toxic entertainment, movies and television programs and more conversation with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it means turning off the soap opera and listening to worship music.
Cleansing our bodies is great, but what’s the point if we fill our lives with spiritually toxic and harmful substances – lust, greed, adultery, fornication, blasphemy, idolatry, perversion and violence. Beloved, we ingest these killer substances all day long. Sadly, they are everywhere we turn – billboards, malls, computer images, ad campaigns – they’re everywhere. As I have been searching Google Images for photos for these posts, I have been sickened by many search results. (I can’t believe we turn kids loose on a computer!) Some images never leave my mind…and I never asked to see them. Why then, would I voluntarily ingest sin and perversion in the form of “entertainment?”
Paul took a vow and fasted when he had to face the sensual perversion and idolatry at Corinth. He sought to be protected from the filth he was forced to encounter. Yet we voluntarily ingest a steady diet of wickedness and actually derive pleasure from it. Beloved, it isn’t the Spirit of God in you that enjoys such wickedness. He seeks to “loose the bands of wickedness” (Is. 58:6). It is your sinful nature and demon spirits who derive pleasure from it. Spiritual toxins build up in you and keep you from being filled and overcome by the Spirit of God. His cleansing, healing flow is hindered.
Why fast and seek His presence in our lives, then turn right around and stifle it with a diet of wickedness in the form of entertainment? God is not laughing at the curse words. God is not laughing at the adultery. God is not entertained by the mockery of Himself. He is deeply grieved, angered and offended…and His presence is quenched. Fast and pray to be make healthy physical and spiritual choices this year.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the
sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Ga. 5:24).
Pray for God to Touch Your Body. In the case of physical illness, pray for God to touch your physical body with healing. Ask him to cleanse disease from your body and to strengthen your body as you eat appropriate food.
Pray to Perceive Sin’s Role in Poor Health. Theologically, sickness entered the world because of Adam and Eve’s sin. There isn’t always a direct relationship between our sin and illness, but there is some correlation. James addressed of the issue of sin and healing:
“ Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (5:13-16).
Continued godly living has a good effect upon our health. Living godly doesn’t mean that you will never suffer ailments, but it does mean that you are spared the destructive effects of sin upon your body. And there are destructive effects. Notice from this passage in James that sin is sometimes related to the cause of sickness.
- “Lack of healing may be the result of spiritual rebellion – adultery, lying, unforgiveness, bitterness, blasphemy or other sins.
- “Lack of health/healing may be the consequence of the sin of wrong intake or destructive addictions, such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or other destructive substances…even unhealthy foods.
- “Repentance is linked to health. James prescribes that Believers call for the elders to deal with their sins so that we can be forgiven and healed from the cause of sickness.
- “The elders of the church have a role in both physical and spiritual health. They have faith to pray and believe God, but they also deal with public sins in the church – adultery, lying, blasphemy, etc. Such sins can bring about poor health and damage the entire Church Body’s reputation.
- “The “anointing of oil” could be medicinal for healing or could be real oil, which is an outer symbol of God’s Holy Spirit that heals within.
- “Not all sicknesses are included in James’ statement. In verse 15, the word “sick” is derived from the Greek word kamno, which suggests “to be weary, weak, incapacitated or have a general sickness.” James did not use the word astheneo as he did in verse 14, which means “diseased, impotent or a pathology.” He could have used the word sunecho, which means “diseased by illness, tormented.” This passage does not refer to severe pathologies. An example of a severe pathology is the man blind from birth, whom Jesus healed in John 9. The disciples asked Jesus, “’Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life’” (v. 1-2).
Step 4: Fast as a Statement of Faith.
Your fast is a statement of faith to yourself and to others. The Daniel Fast is a faith statement for a specific purpose. Jesus said, “If you have faith…you will say to this mountain, [your physical problem], ‘Move from here to there’” (Matt. 17:20). By fasting you are saying to yourself and to others that you believe God can move mountains.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
Faith is affirming what God says in His Word. Daniel made a statement of faith when he asked to eat only vegetables and drink only water, then challenged the king’s servant to compare he and his three friends with the young men who ate the king’s food (Dan. 1:13). Daniel’s statement of faith wasn’t just a private act.
- A Partial and Prolonged Fast Is a Public Statement of Faith. If you engage in the Daniel Fast as Daniel did – as a healthy lifestyle of eating – then it is a partial fast and a prolonged fast. You are modifying your diet according to a Scriptural goal in order to release the will of God for your life. In such a situation, you are acting in faith, willing for that expression to be a public act. When you modify your diet for a long period of time, you cannot keep it from others. There are times that fasting should be a private act (Mt 6:16). But there are times when fasting is a statement of faith to other Christians and to the world. “The official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king…Why should he see you looking worse?’ “ (Dan. 1:10). If you fast partially and modify your diet for a prolonged period of time, others will notice. Have the right approach. Do not become reclusive or overly spiritual. Have the right attitude.
Step 5: Yield All Results to God
Daniel yielded himself to the results of his convictions. “As you see fit, so deal with your servants” (1:13). Daniel didn’t say, “I will not eat that, so you will have to punish/kill me.” Or “If my diet doesn’t make me better than the others, I will eat the king’s food.” Daniel submitted himself to God and left the consequences up to Him. He trusted God with the result.
God will give you spiritual insight. Because Daniel and his friends honored God by fasting, He gave them wisdom beyond anyone else in the Babylonian empire.
“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding…the king talked with them, and he found none equal to [them]…In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (1:17,19-20).
Doing without food does not give wisdom. God gives wisdom as we crucify the flesh with its appetites and desires, (see Ga. 5:24) exercise self-discipline over food, and spend time praying and studying the Word.
If you truly want to transform your eating habits, I recommend the Daniel Fast for a longer duration. Poor health and many sicknesses don’t develop in one day, or even 21 days. They develop over a long period of time, so it will likely take a long time for diet modification to result in renewed health. The Daniel Fast in this instance would not eliminate all food, but would include healthy food so that the body can heal itself.
Looking at the statistics, it’s obvious why we need to give our body time to heal. In 1 year, the average American consumes:
- 100 pounds of refined sugar
- 55 pounds of fats & oils in form of:
- 300 cans of soda pop
- 200 sticks of gum
- 18 pounds candy
- 5 pounds potato chips
- 7 pounds corn chips, popcorn and pretzels
- 63 dozen donuts & pastries
- 50 pounds cake & cookies
- 20 gallons of ice cream[iv]
Tests prove that the average Americans consume 5 pounds of chemical preservatives, coloring, stabilizers, flavorings and other additives each year. These build up and cause disease. Fasts are necessary to flush out the toxins & give body chance to heal itself.
In Toxic Relief, Dr. Colbert describes our 21st century bodies as a walking “cellular garbage dump.” He advises fasting saying, “It is one of the best ways of preventing and treating sickness and disease.” [iii] If done correctly, fasting holds amazing healing benefits to those of us who suffer illness and disease. From colds and flu to heart disease, fasting is a mighty key to healing the body.
May God touch your body as you fast and pray in faith for health and healing.
“I am the LORD, who heals you” (Ex. 15:26).
Question: In what ways do you desire improved health and healthy eating habits?
[i] Elmer Towns, Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996), 131
[ii] Steps from Towns., 129-140
[iii] Don Colbert, M.D., Toxic Relief (Lake Mary, FL: Siloam, 2001) , 49
[iv] Michael T. Murray, Complete Book of Juicing (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998), 3-4