16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 CSB
Hey guys! Welcome back to the PSALMS to God podcast. Today, I want to talk about fasting. Fasting is a topic that has recently fascinated me. Growing up, the church that I attended did not talk about fasting. The churches that I was ping-ponging between and visiting—I never ever heard anyone say anything about fasting. I never saw anybody fast. We didn't really dwell on the passages in the Bible where people were fasting, and so it was never something that I associated with my walk with Christ.
When I went to college, I had a teacher who was Muslim and that was the first time I really saw somebody fast. Because in Islam they have Ramadan—which is a month where they do an intermittent fast (for the whole month) where they can eat at night but they cannot eat while the Sun is up. And so that was the first time I ever saw that form of fasting or anyone like purposely fasting.
And you know, then I had friends in college (again) who did Lent—that's a whole ‘nother topic in and of itself—but even then, the one time that I went along with them, I was like sure I'll give this up, it was moreso because somebody said that I couldn't do it, and I just wanted to prove to them that I could. It had nothing to do with the relationship with God. It wasn't like, “I'm leaning on God, I'm praying on God. Every time I want this I'm going to pray, I'm going to think about God or memorize verses.” Like, there wasn’t anything spiritual this about it at all. It was look, you’re not about to tell me what I can and cannot do; I'm going to prove you wrong. It was extremely self-motivated, and that's not how fasting is supposed to work—not from a religious standpoint, not from a Godly standpoint.
And it was out of college when I first saw somebody who did, like, what I would call an extreme fast or a full fast, where they were abstaining from everything but water. Or even the times where people are abstaining, period—like even from water! And so now that I'm, I guess, more into The Word, every day doing my devotions, and trying to really grow my relationship with Christ, the topic of fasting started coming up more and more. So for the past couple of years, I've been thinking more about how fasting should be incorporated in my life, and how I should be fasting, what that should look like, and how that should work for me. Because everyone's fasting life will look different. There are different types of fast, as I mentioned, and there's also different reasons for fasting.
Fasting in the Bible (00:04:22)
So for instance, in the Bible you see that Jesus fasted, obviously He did a all but... I think he had water during his fast. Elijah fasted. Daniel fasted. Moses fasted. Esther did a full fast! She called for the people to do the full fast, eating nothing, drinking nothing. There were plenty of fasts in the Old Testament. Before battles people fasted. Particularly women who wanted to have children and were unable to have children, they were fasting to have those children. There were just different reasons people were fasting and different ways that people fasted. And what I found, particularly in this past month, is that your fast has to also match your... The way you are. And what I mean is when you're fasting you're giving up things that you love, or things that you desire, in favor of spending that time with God. So you can't fast from... Like I can't fast from football, 'cause I don't watch football anyway! Like that's not giving up anything. It doesn't matter if that's not hard for me to do. And so when you think about it even in terms of food, it has to match what you're used to. You have to actually be giving up something that it's hard for you to give up for the fast to actually be an efficient fast.
The Daniel Fast (00:06:06)
Now with that preface, I want to talk about the Daniel Fast specifically, because I just tried it in the month of May and this is actually one of the problems that I think I had with the Daniel Fast. So everyone raves about the Daniel Fast. It is supposed to be a very grand experience and people at the church that I attend now say wonderful things about it, so I decided that I wanted to try it.
So the Daniel Fast actually is comprised of two different passages in the Book of Daniel. People, when they first told me about it they were referencing the scenario from one but they were actually kind of doing from the second, and I'm not going to lie I got kind of confused about what the Daniel Fast was actually supposed to look like as I got deeper into the Word.
So the first verse that is generally mentioned in association with the Daniel Fast is in Daniel 1:8-16. In this passage Daniel and his friends have been taken into captivity in Babylon. They're in some sort of servitude program and the king is feeding them. There is this man that is over them, and he is supposed to feed them what the king tells him to feed them. He supposed to watch them and train them and all of these things. And this program was supposed to be for like 3 years. And of course, because they're in Babylon—this is a pagan nation—the food that is being presented to them is not food that God allows for them. OK, they're probably presenting them with unclean food, but they're also providing meat that has been sacrificed to pagan gods and things like that. They are providing wine, and the wine has probably also been sacrificed a pagan god. And there's a lot of things that God would have condemned or had condemned that they as Israelites were not supposed to be partaking in.
So Daniel and his friends take a stand and say that they don't want this. They're not going to eat this, and they want to eat their own diet. The diet that God has prescribed for them. And so the person who's in charge of this is not really sure that this is a good idea. He doesn't want to get in trouble. And he thinks that if they do this that they're going to look sickly, and that they're not going to perform as well as the other people, who are all of the same “race”—and I'm saying race with quotation marks (you guys can't see my hands) because it's really like a bloodline, or lineage. If you want to call it a race, I guess. So, when they get into this, basically Daniel said let us do this for 10 days and then judge our appearance and if it's good then we're going to do this, and if not then we'll eat the king's food. So that is how that fast began. So they did not have the wine, they did not have the meat, they had vegetables. So this is the first definition of the Daniel Fast: vegetables. Vegetables with no wine. So this is one definition.
Now, also for time duration this 10 day period was the test for the the overseer to say yes or no, but the ask was that they never had to consume the king's meat or the king's food. So I'm pretty sure that this was actually for the full three years that they were being trained not just for the 10 days, because obviously when everything happened after the 10th day, they showed to be better than the others.
Interesting side note before we talk about the second passage. When I started the Daniel Fast, because I started the Daniel Fast this May, it actually overlapped the time period that some of the people at my job are celebrating Ramadan, because I have a lot of Muslim coworkers. And so I was talking to one of my friends, my coworker, at work who is Muslim. I was telling her that I was going to be doing the Daniel Fast at the same time that she was going to be doing Ramadan. I actually started earlier and ended earlier. But we were talking about it, and she had found this article of a peer-reviewed journal (article that I will link in the show notes ), where they were studying these types of fasting and religious fasting and how they affect the body and what benefits they have. And it was interesting because she was talking about how they didn't really find a conclusive thing about Ramadan, specifically intermittent fasting, because when you do intermittent fasting, yes you have this period where you can't eat, but there's no restrictions when you can eat. So when you are allowed to eat, you can eat whatever you want to. So you could not eat anything all day and then at night you could cram down some fried chicken, some french fries, some Oreos, a bunch of soda, sugary things. Like you can be eating things that are horrible for you and that could do you harm, or you can eat things that are good for you. It really just depends on the person; so it could be a good experience or a bad experience.
But in this article, they actually found several health benefits to the Daniel Fast, because you are restricting what you're eating the whole time. And so I thought it was really cool. I wasn't really surprised because, obviously, God set this fast as an example in His Word. He's telling... It’s something that He told us to do. And if you truly believe in the Bible, then you know that everything that God tells us to do is for the good of our body. Obviously, I already knew that Daniel did this fast and at the end he was better off than his peers, so clearly the Daniel Fast has benefits. But scientist is agreeing with the Bible, so there's that.
The second passage in Daniel that people cite for the Daniel Fast, that's slightly different, and probably why people have different definitions of the Daniel Fast, is Daniel 10:2-3. So he says,
In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three full weeks. I didn’t eat any rich food, no meat or wine entered my mouth, and I didn’t put any oil on my body until the three weeks were over. Daniel 10:2-3 CSB
So this is where people get the 21 day Daniel Fast. And so people...
Defining the Fast (00:13:12)
There are different translations of this passage, well of the Bible in general, but specifically for this passage. What's said here is different in different translations. So this was the Christian Standard Bible (the CSB), and here it says he didn't eat rich food—which would people generally assumed to be like sugar and things like that. Somehow that has morphed also into like processed food. I guess processed food is considered rich food. I would consider processed food maybe more like poor food, but hey OK. And obviously the no meat, but then it says no wine. So that's... People obviously assume that to be alcohol. But there are verses that I think it says he only consumed water, And so there are people who say that you can only have water. So I saw some people were saying like you can't even have tea, even though tea is just water with leaves in it, which leaves is technically a sort of a vegetable. And then, of course, you don't have like dairy and milk which I guess falls under rich food—dairy and eggs, not dairy and milk; milk is dairy. I guess that falls under rich foods. And then, you know, people abstain from, like I said processed foods, white rice, white flour, all of these things.
And so what I saw people defining to actually be the Daniel Fast was different for different people, and so because I was like "OK, I'm going to read the Bible on the see what it says, what I think it says, and then I'm just going to pray. And me and God are going to come to an agreement about what I'm actually going to fast from." And so upfront it was just like, OK these are the things that I think Daniel said he was fasting from, this is what I'm going to try. And that's what I went for.
Now that being said, before I talk about the experience and what was good, what was bad, and all of that. I want to point out this last statement from Daniel 10:3. It said "I didn't put any oil on my body until the three weeks were over." When I first read this, I was reading—so I had to study Bible and then I have the Bible that I use for the podcast. I have a lot of Bibles, OK, because I like to read the different translations. Of course on the podcast, I usually read to you guys from the CSB, because it's easier to speak because it's closer to our modern English, but I grew up in a King James only church. So there's something about the King James Version that just speaks to me. So generally when I'm studying for myself, I read the King James Version. And the King James Version, here, says anoint. And y'all! I didn't pay no attention to the word anoint, because, I'm like "Oh, yeah, anointing. Like, they used to anoint themselves in the temple and stuff like that." And in the back of my mind I knew that they used to put like oil on their heads and things like that, but I didn't pay that any attention that didn't seem like something I ever do. I don't ever anoint myself, so that's not something I need to worry about. But at the end of the fast, as I was getting ready to do this podcast and I was looking at the CSB, and it was like "I didn't put any oil on my body," I was like "Wait a minute!" Y'all, every week I wash my hair, and I put oil in my hair; so I didn't do this part of the fast, at all. Just putting that out there. And so if I ever do this again I might have to re-evaluate how I do my hair. And then there's another translation, I can't remember which one it is; I will link it in the show notes. They actually said lotion; they didn't put any lotion on their body. Y'all! I'm black—not putting lotion on my body... Like Jesus said don't go out looking like a hot mess while you're fasting. You should look happy, and if I don't put any oil in my hair and I don't put any lotion on my body, I'ma look a little crazy. I think. Maybe. I don't know. Maybe if I consume the correct amount of water I will be OK. I don't know; so this is something for me to investigate in the future. And I definitely think that those things definitely would have been game changers in this fast. It definitely would have made it more difficult is what I'm saying. So in the future I want to actually do that part.
Actually Fasting (00:17:38)
Now back to the fast itself. I am already vegetarian with plant-based tendencies. I say that because I may or may not be lactose intolerant. I don't really do well with dairy in general, so I already don't use milk—I use almond milk, soy milk, whatever. And I typically, like my yogurt and ice cream things like that are all from like coconut milk. I use vegan butter. The only real dairy products that I guess I use are cheese. Regularly, I use cheese. Sometimes, I'll dabble with some sour cream, but I usually substitute yogurt—like unsweetened yogurt—for the sour cream. Y'all, it tastes exactly the same! So giving up the dairy portion was not such a stretch, and I already did a vegan challenge this past January for 30 days and that was fine. I slipped twice, it was an accident, but it was fine I didn't really struggle with that. So I was pretty sure that that part would be a breeze. The part of the Daniel Fast I thought would be the most difficult is the not having sugar, not having processed foods. Fried vegetables do not count. Like you can't have fried vegetables, according to someone. I guess that's considered rich food? I'm not really sure, like I said, I wasn't really sure where some of these rules that people were setting were coming from, but some of them I just liked them. I'm not really sure if they're necessarily biblically-based but as I was like "Yeah, OK I think I should not have fried foods," because for me, one of the things that I realized would be the difficulty is convenience. So processed foods, things with sugar, are easily accessible. At my office, we have a break room; we have potato chips. We have like little like brownie things, and cookies, and popcorn, and things like that. They may be vegan or they may be vegetarian, but they're not necessarily good for you, and they are processed, and things like that. Those things I couldn't just snack on if I got hungry at work. And what I knew that I would default to is, there is a burger place behind my job. And I would like I would just go and get—they have fried green beans and they have fries. So, those are vegetables: that's potato and a green bean. And I was like I will definitely cheat by just going and getting the fried food, and so I was like I'm going to adopt this whether this is part of the biblical definition or not. So that like, I said, that was my concern and you can't have sugar, you can't have processed food, stc. etc.
And so I was like this is where it's going to be hard. And people talked about you know, like having, like the withdrawals from the sugar, and things like that. And it actually was not as difficult as I thought it would be at all. The first week or so, I had in my head decided that I was going to try out like chia seed pudding, and I was going to do like my overnight oats and things like that, and I was just not going to use the sweetener—because I should add, a lot of people when they said no sweeteners included natural sweeteners like honey, because I guess that's considered rich food. Well. OK, chia seed pudding and oatmeal do not taste good without sugar. I'm just going to put that out there, all right. Don't try that. Do not just make oatmeal the way you normally make it and don't put sugar in it, or chia seed pudding. It does not taste good. You will not be able to finish eating it. You will have wasted food. Don't do it. That's what I did the first week, and eventually I bought like some dates and tried to blend up the dates in the milk—the almond milk, not real milk guys—to try to give it some flavor. And you know, it was a little bit better. It wasn't great, and then of course, because I could only find dried dates, the dates didn't blend as smoothly as I would like them to. So there were kind of like chunks of dates in the mixture and that just didn't go over as well as I wanted it to.
So, after the first week, I gave up on having breakfast foods for breakfast, and I switched to this like potato thing. And so what I would do is roast potatoes and roast some veggies and have them together. Or I would do, like I did like a cucumber, a tomato, and avocado, and I would like combine them and squeeze like some lime juice on it, or something like that. And that's what I would do for breakfast. And then for lunch, I would have like salad, or I would have like brown rice and roasted vegetables and things like that and you know for dinner, dinner and lunch looked pretty much the same.
Well, this isn't really an extreme departure from my normal diet, guys.
What I realized is that, I don't know if I actually don't eat that much sugar normally, or if... I don't know. Like it just—as I got into the routine it wasn't that different. The only thing is like "OK, I'm not going to go to Pieology and grab a pizza, because I can't have that." or I'm not eating like brownies or whatever, but I don't eat sweets that often. And I don't normally eat egg—on occasion, but it's not like I ate eggs every single day. I did miss juice. I will say that; I like grape juice, and so I was a little annoyed at only drinking water. I did not consume tea, because I know myself, and I know that drinking just water is a challenge for me, and I thought like if I was drinking tea it would be easier, and so again like I said in the beginning fasting is about giving up something you love, so it has to be meaningful. So I did try the full, you know, just water, and I think that because it wasn't that much of a departure form my normal diet. It did not have as profound of an impact as I thought it would. 00:24:27 Now I'm not going to say nothing changed in my spiritual life. If you watch me—if you follow me on Instagram—if you don't follow me on Instagram should: @shiree.hughes. I started doing Testimony Tuesday. I got back to the whole idea of sharing testimonies about what God is doing in my life, and that's something that I used to do that I had stopped doing, and I felt like, you know, I was a little bit I guess more distant from God. So I felt like I got more energy. I did get more energy. I did feel more energized in my spiritual life, so that is a thing, and that was a good thing. But in terms of like just feeling really different, or you know having to stop and pray because I'm having a craving for this food that I've given up, that didn't happen for me. It really wasn't difficult because it wasn't that far from my normal diet.
For Next Time (00:25:29)
One of my friends is about to embark on the Daniel Fast. She also has a podcast: GirlTalkWithFo, she'll get your finances right. She is thinking about doing just vegetables and it says: just vegetables, in the beginning. I think that, you know, of course there's always a question: do you count fruit as a vegetable? But I do think that perhaps if I do this again I may have to cut out like grains and things like that to try to make it more challenging. Again, that's something that I would be concerned about for myself, because I have iron deficiency anemia, and I'm about 10lbs underweight, according to what the doctor say you're supposed to weigh. So, for me I would be cautious of what I actually fast from 'cause I need to make sure that I'm getting the right amount of protein and nutrients and iron to, you know, not cause health problems. So, I would have to do some research before I actually try that.
Wrap Up (00:26:41)
But you know, if you tried the Daniel Fast, how did it help you? and do you think it's more efficient for people who generally eat meat and things, than for people who are already living like a plant-based lifestyle or vegetarian lifestyle?
Also, definitely, pray about fasting in general. Maybe God is calling you to do some fasting; like I said it doesn't have to be food. Maybe it's something else. It's definitely something you should think about incorporating into your life. Definitely remember that the point of the fast is to get closer to God, so you should be praying throughout the fast. And yeah, let me know about your experiences, and what you want to try, and what you have tried. How it works for you, and what blessing that brought into your life?
Thank you guys for tuning in! I will see you guys next time. Bye
References and Footnotes
- Matthew 4
- "Did Jesus Drink Water When He Was Fasting For 40 Days". Never Thirsty; visited May 2019
- 1 Kings 19:1-8
- Daniel 1; Daniel 10:2-3
- Exodus 24:28
- Esther 4:15-17
- I actually meant meaningful. I don't know why I said efficient (I actually did this twice).
- People have this same reaction when I tell them I'm vegetarian.
- John F Trepanowski and Richard J Bloomer. "The impact of religious fasting on human health". Nutrition Journal. 2010
- Definitely meant translation
- Actually this is from the first passage.
- The version that says lotion is the NIV
- What about things like squash and tomato: it’s actually a fruit and we think of them as vegetables.
- GirlTalkWithFo is now Mama N’ Money