Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions about Fasting

What is the purpose of the fast?

There are a number of ways to fast. One great way is to fast as Daniel did in the Old Testament. He made a decision not to eat “the king’s food” as an outward symbol of an inward commitment he had made to God. In other words, he only ate fruits and vegetables. Let your choices over the next 40-days reflect the hunger you have for God’s presence in your life.

Why should I participate in the fast?
There are several reasons people fasted in Scripture and throughout church history. As Andrew Murray, a prominent Reformed minister in Cape Town, South Aftrica, said, “Fasting helps us to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain the Kingdom of God.” So it is with us, first and foremost, before we ask God to do anything on our behalf, we want to simply set aside time and space to be with Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

At the same time, you may choose to bring a particular struggle or addiction before God during this season. Surrender your affections to Christ, and as you fast and pray, ask God to deliver and heal you. God may direct you to spend significant time praying for someone or something; however, it’s important to remember that we do not fast to solicit God as an accomplice to our desires. Fasting doesn’t convince God you love Him or indebt Him to move on our behalf. Fasting, primarily, expresses our dependence, hunger and trust in Him as the true Source of life. It may be helpful to track your experience and prayers in a journal.

How strict should I be with what I eat on the fast?
The list of foods provided below is merely a first step to get you thinking about making better food choices. Remember, this fast is about growing your relationship with God. And He’s not as concerned about what is in your stomach as He is about what is in your heart.

Can I eat foods that are not specifically listed?
If you are not sure about a certain food, ask God to reveal to you whether it should be part of your diet over the next few weeks. Since there is no definitive list of foods for the Daniel Diet, it is truly the spirit of Daniel’s decision that we are imitating throughout this season.

What about children?
We would love to see whole family units engaged in fasting during the season of Lent, including children. Be encouraged to talk to your children about the meaning of Lent and what this season is all about. Dialogue with your children about what they could “give up” during Lent. It’s important for them, as with adults, to not merely give something up, but take that time and use it to engage the Story of Scripture, the Person of Christ, and a world in need. Perhaps children can give up some (or all) of their television and/or video gaming time. During that time, you could read to/with them from Scripture or explore various prayer practices, etc. Try to get creative with engaging your children in their spiritual journey.

As for food, it’s not typically recommended that children abstain from food. We are recommending eliminating particular types of foods such as, sugar, certain breads and some forms of dairy. Whole wheat pasta and soy milk may be a great alternative. Mostly, children can eat what we eat, but we would include chicken for them in some meals. Some children are more open to new foods when we fast together. However, more important than you “ruining” the spirit of the season by forcing them to each their broccoli, our prayer is that they will understand more deeply the meaning of denying ourselves, and growing in appreciation of Who Christ is and what He did on the cross. It may be more exciting to allow children to help plan meals and enjoy more fruits and vegetables, some of which they have never tried before.

What if I have concerns about participating because of my health?
If you have any condition that would prohibit you from being a part of the Daniel Fast, you can participate in a different way. Choose something from your daily routine (i.e. specific foods or beverages, television, other technology, etc.) and fast in that manner for Lent. Remember, the details are not as important as the spirit in which you participate. If you have any known medical conditions or suspect such conditions, consult your doctor before beginning the fast.

Foods to Eat
WHOLE GRAINS: Brown Rice, Oats, Barley
LEGUMES: Dried Beans, Pinto Beans, Split Peas, Lentils, Black Eyed Peas
FRUITS: Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Canta-
loupe, Cherries, Cranberries, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Guava, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi,
Lemons, Limes, Mangoes, Nectarines, Papayas, Peaches, Pears, Pineapples, Plums,
Prunes, Raisins, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tangelos, Tangerines, Watermelon
VEGETABLES: Artichokes, Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage,
Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chili Peppers, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Ginger
Root, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions, Parsley,
Potatoes, Radishes, Rutabagas, Scallions, Spinach, Sprouts, Squashes, Sweet Potatoes,
Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress, Yams, Zucchini
Seeds, Nuts, Sprouts
LIQUIDS: Water (as much as possible), Unsweetened Soy Milk, Herbal (caffeine free)
Tea, Natural Fruit Juice (no added sugar)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (small quantities), Honey
Foods to Avoid
• Meat, Poultry, Fish
• White Rice
• Fried Foods
• Caffeine, Coffee, Tea (including decaf)
• Carbonated Beverages
• Foods Containing Preservatives or Additives
• Refined Sugar or Sugar Substitutes
• White Flour
• Margarine, Shortening, High Fat Products
• All Breads
• Dairy (milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.)

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