Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend Book Review: The Daniel Fast

"Sometimes you are so hungry that the only way you can be fed is to fast." ~ Susan Gregory

That very profound quote is found in the book, The Daniel Fast: Feed Your Soul, Strengthen Your Spirit, and Renew Your Body, by Susan Gregory. This book discusses the partial fast that has come to be known as the Daniel Fast, named so after the Old Testament Jew, Daniel, who requested to be fed only food originating from seed and water while serving in King Nebuchadnezzer's court.

This very interesting book starts by discussing the history of fasting in both the Jewish and Gentile cultures of the Old and New Testament time periods. The author also includes specific examples with Scriptural references to the various different types of fasts found in the Bible, including Moses (who did an absolute fast - no food or water, in his case, for 40 days); Elijah and Jesus (who did normal fasts which included fasting only from food); and Daniel and John the Baptist (who participated in partial fasts in which some foods were consumed but others were restricted). Ms. Gregory also includes other specific examples for both personal and cooperate (group) fasting from the Bible.

Ms. Gregory discusses the purpose of fasting in a believer's life. She discusses the importance of it being practiced as a spiritual discipline. And (I believe most importantly) she discusses what fasting is not meant to be - a way to manipulate God into giving us what we want.

I have read several different books that have addressed the topic of fasting. I have done some casual research on my own, as well, over the course of the last year, and I have come to a renewed appreciation and understanding of the purpose of fasting in a believer's life. Fasting is not for God. It is not a way for us to prove how good or spiritual we are to Him. If we have excepted His gift of salvation, we are already saved by the blood of Christ. Rather, fasting is a way of drawing a believer nearer to God. It is a time of more intentional and focused meditation on God. It is a time to develop self-control and a time to learn how to let the Spirit work through us.

And through the reading and research I have done on fasting, I have realized the importance of fasting in a believer's life.

I actually read this book in about three hours. Partly because a large portion of the book includes recipes that are specific to the Daniel Fast but also because I found the content very interesting and I really enjoyed Ms. Gregory's conversational writing style.

I had originally heard of this book several months ago when my mom was reading it. I was somewhat turned off by it, thinking it to be another fad diet that some author pinned a spiritual tag onto to appeal to the Christian audience. However, my mom spoke highly of the book and the fast itself, so when I saw this book available for review I thought I'd read it for myself.

And I'm glad I did. It was a great book. It gave some great background info on fasting in general, as well as specific info on this particular fast, the Daniel Fast. And the thing I found fascinating is that it just makes sense. During this fast, you eat only fruits and veggies, legumes, spices, and whole grains. No fats, no meat products, no dairy products, no sweeteners of any kind, nothing artificial, nothing preserved, etc. Only whole, healthy, God-produced food. Eating the way God originally intended us to eat.

But here is where the whole "fasting" part plays in. Since most of us don't eat like this and never have, we are giving up many (if not most) of the normal foods we indulge in each day of our lives. And as we do this, we will suffer withdrawal of sorts (I can already imagine the coffee withdrawal I'd experience) and cravings and weak moments, and it is during those times when we will need to draw near to God and be reminded to seek Him, His strength, and His direction. That's the point of fasting.

This book approaches the Daniel Fast as a twenty-one day fast, although Ms. Gregory says that you can do it for a shorter or longer time period. She encourages you to pray and follow the Spirit's leading on how long you will fast as well as what you will focus on during your fasting.

One of the great things about this book are all of the food suggestions that she provides the reader. And even better is the twenty-one day meal plan and all of the recipes to go along with it. When my mom was doing this fast, she had given me a couple of the dishes to eat because they were gluten free, and I can testify that they were tasty. (In fact she has continued to make them long after ending her fast.) Reading through the recipes tonight, I found them to be interesting, whole, and extremely healthy. This section of recipes and the menu is very helpful in planning your fast.

I really enjoyed this book. It really did fascinate me. And I am going to be praying about when God might want me to do a Daniel fast and what part of my spiritual life He wants me to focus on during that time.

And I do want to reiterate that a believer should never enter a fast as a way to lose weight or as a way to attempt to manipulate God. Fasting is meant to be a deep-rooted response to our Father. It is an expression of our desire to know Him, love Him, draw near to Him, learn from Him, depend on Him, live in Him and through Him.

I recommend this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

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