I am not a Theologian. I have never studied at a seminary and I only took one apologetics class in college. I do own a few Bibles. I do love Jesus. And I do have an intense desire to study and understand God's Word and serve Him accordingly. Thanks to the Internet, I can type Bible verses into my computer and read twenty different translations of those same verses (and that is just in English). My fingertips also have quick access to examine words in Hebrew and Greek.
Modern technology has made Bible study easier and more exciting for me, but even with the above-mentioned tools, I lack answers to many questions. After all, my brain is not only "mommied-out" most days, but it is also incredibly fallible...incredibly human. Still, I seek more knowledge so that I can experience God's love more fully and in doing so learn how to better love Him and others.
After a previous post on fasting, I began more research on the subject matter. It started when someone I respect sent me an e-mail stating that a fast is only a fast when it involves not eating and that it always includes prayer. She went on to express that under that definition, the term Daniel Fast is inaccurate. She made a good point; and since she and her husband are scholars of the Bible I knew that she had sufficient grounds on which to stake that claim.
Soon after I received her message, another friend cautioned me against writing about my fast on Becoming Me. She didn't tell me not to write about it, but mentioned that Scripture is clear that one should fast in secret and not like the Pharisees who fasted for recognition. (Matthew 6:16-19 is a good example ).
After receiving those bits of feedback I felt mildly discouraged. I had not intended to write about the fast to draw attention to myself, but rather to share my experiences to help others. The fact that I did such a terrible job on my own with the fast made me think that was justified...and sharing after the fact may be. But in hindsight, I probably should not have shared with a large group of people about my intent to fast. At this point, I do feel comfortable with relaying more of information about my fasting experience, but will continue to pray before I write each post to make sure that I am doing so for God's glory and not because I want props.
However, I am still left with the questions, "What is a fast?" And, can there really be such a thing as a Daniel Fast because he just changed his diet for three weeks during a time of mourning?"
Friends, I am not going to answer that question for you. I do not feel I can. However, I will write down some information that I gathered during my research time.
What does the word "Fast" mean?
In Hebrew, the word Tsoon is used for fasting and it means "To cover the mouth."
In New Testament Greek, Asitia means fasting (the state) abstinence; Asitos means without (taking) food; and Nestis means not eating, abstaining from food.
With respect to those definitions, it appears that in the Bible fasting meant not eating. As far as for how long? It does not specify. In my research, I read that examples cover everything from one meal to 40 days. So, I guess I could make the case that I completed 21 mini-fasts since I skipped a meal a day...but that is not my point for this post.
There are also some Biblical scholars who maintain that what Daniel did during a time of mourning (eating on mainly fruits and vegetables) was indeed a type of fast because in that culture fasting and mourning went together.
I do not know the answer.
I am going to complicate things even more: The unabridged Random House dictionary defines fasting as either abstaining from all food or some foods.
Now, I know that there is a chasm of difference between the the authority of the Word of God and the authority of a man made dictionary. But our culture today does have some impact on meaning is assigned to words and the process for such is a lengthy one.
All that to come to this conclusion: I still do not know the answer. And that is not a cop out.
What I do know is that God, whose vocabulary spans every language ever spoken, peers into the heart of every human being. He sees all motives...all intentions...all desires.
For the purpose of my future posts about fasting, I will refer to my 21 day fasting period as a "modified fast inspired by Daniel."
For more information about fasting you may consider reading the books A Hunger for God by John Piper and A Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.
You may also find this short synopsis written by Richard Foster to be of value. (In the attached link, Foster surmises that one can fast from more things than just food...I agree with him that this can be very healthy...whether or not one can really call it a fast I think is semantics. But again, please don't just take my word for it.)
As I often encourage my readers, please do not let me or any other person be your only source for Biblical knowledge.
I know this post was very different from my usual style, but I thought it remiss to not address the noted concerns.
Update: Originally I had pasted scripture below, but it did something funky to the coding and I had to remove it. I recommend reading Romans 14:1-8. While Paul is not speaking of just fasting, I think these verses fit nicely into this post.