by Leslee Stewart
Sugar. Meat. Bread. Coffee. Dairy. Could I really go three weeks without eating any of these things that were a regular part of my diet? In January 2012, I challenged myself to my first Daniel fast – a 21-day fast where you abstain from certain foods in exchange for time spent each day in prayer before God.
A friend of mine told me that for several years, she had dedicated the first three weeks of the year to doing a Daniel fast. She took that time to pray and focus her mind, body and spirit on whatever God was showing her. She kept a daily prayer journal where she wrote out her prayer requests, and spent about an hour each day praying and worshipping before the Lord.
I felt led to do the fast after talking with her. She had witnessed God answer many of the prayers she’d prayed during her fasts, and she really encouraged me to give it a try. There were several big things on my “prayer plate” that I wanted to serve up to God, and I felt like the fast would be a good way to focus on them and let God speak into my life His direction and plan about each one.
The Daniel fast is based on two fasts that Daniel did in the book of Daniel (Chapters 1 and 10). There are a couple of variations of the fast, but the one I followed restricted my diet to only fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and water. It’s like a vegan diet, but with more restrictions (no processed foods or sweeteners, for example). When doing a fast, the point is to make your flesh sacrifice something you care about (food, technology, excess spending, etc.) in exchange for more focus on and commitment to God. If it doesn’t hurt a little to give it up, odds are it isn’t going to make as much of an impact on your spiritual life.
During my fasting experience, I spent time every day in prayer, pouring my heart out to God about all the things I was concerned about. It’s important to be very specific when you are praying. That’s where the prayer journal came in handy. I wrote out my specific prayers – things I believed God to move in my life about over the coming year. Some of those things included praying for a promotion for my husband, for wisdom on what to do about a difficult school situation with our oldest son, and even prayers that our youngest would stop desiring his pacifier. No matter how serious or trivial the prayer request, for 21 days, I wrote them in my journal and spent time praying God’s word over each and every one.
Was it easy? Not at first. There were definitely times when I wanted to give in to yummy foods or when I didn’t feel motivated to pray. But every time I felt like giving up, I reminded myself that three weeks of sacrifice was nothing compared to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for me and for every one of the requests I was bringing before Him. The small, sliver of time I spent sacrificing my fleshly desires was one of the most spiritually rewarding times of my life. I felt very close to the Lord. I had a spiritual confidence I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I knew – even though I didn’t have all the answers – that God was in control of every situation I’d placed before Him.
Within six weeks of completing the fast, my husband received a promotion, God opened a door for my son to attend a new school, and my youngest just up and quit using his pacifier like it was no big deal. Before the fast, I’d seen God answer prayers in my life, but nothing like the magnitude or speed in which He did this time. As thrilled as I was about my husband’s promotion and my son’s school change, the pacifier situation was probably my favorite answered prayer because it showed me that God really does care about everything that concerns us – even 3-year-old pacifier addictions!
Did God answer every prayer? No…well, let’s say not in the way I thought they would be answered. And I’m completely okay with that. The fasting experience showed me that even when God doesn’t answer right away, or even closes a door you thought was supposed to open, He always does it with gentleness and grace that makes even a “no” answer okay. Things I really thought I needed, He took the desire away and replaced it with His desire for my life.
If you’ve never fasted before, I strongly encourage you to consider it. If you’ll give up just a little in honor to Him, He will give back to you more than you could imagine.
Leslee Stewart oversees communications for GFC Beautiful. She is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She openly admits she owns too many throw pillows, loves junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”