LifeChurch.tv, one of the largest and most innovative churches in America, is marking the New Year by participating in a 21-day "Daniel Fast," which involves giving up meat, dairy and sugar, among other foods, not just for health, but "to experience His presence on a whole new level."
It started with LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma City announcing on its Facebook page that its staff would begin a 21 day fast from Jan. 2. "We're going to experience His presence on a whole new level. Want to join us?" the church asked, encouraging members to visit the website of the Daniel Fast, a 21-day partial fast based upon Daniel's own experiences as recorded in the Bible.
The congregation responded. "Husband is giving up fries and I'm giving up dr pepper," commented a member. "I'm giving up soda and facebook!" said another one.
The purpose of the fast is to restrict commonly enjoyed foods as an act of worship and consecration to God, the Daniel Fast website says. "Someone who chooses to undergo a Daniel Fast demonstrates a physical commitment that reflects a deep spiritual desire for a more intimate relationship with the Lord."
Foods allowed on the Daniel Fast include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and oils. Foods to be avoided include dairy, meat, sugar, all forms of sweeteners, yeast, refined and processed foods, deep-fried foods, and solid fats.
On one occasion, according to the Old Testament, Daniel was greatly concerned for his people and sought the Lord's wisdom during a 3-week time of prayer and fasting. "At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips. (Daniel 10:2-3)"
While meaning of "choice food" is not clear, most commentaries suggest Daniel ate no bread or sweets. The message translation sums up his eating habits during that time: "I ate only plain and simple food."
"The intention of today's Daniel Fast is not to duplicate exactly what Daniel did but the spirit in which he did it," the website says. "Daniel's passion for the Lord caused him to hunger and thirst for spiritual food rather than physical food, which should be the desire for anyone doing the Daniel Fast."
Kristen Feola earlier told The Christian Post that the Daniel Fast, on which her book, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast, is based, is focused on the spiritual aspects of fasting. It's meant to "increase the time you spend in prayer," and it sets the first part of the year aside to seek God for what's to come, she said.
One of the reasons that fasting is so hard is because "our culture is all about self-indulgence, and fasting is the antithesis of that," she added. Often people are afraid of what fasting means, but she said the Daniel Fast is like an "entry-level fast," and once people do it they feel more confident about other types, like water or juice fasts.
When it was originally released, Feola's book became a top 50 bestseller on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association list.
LifeChutch.tv says people can join the fast even days later. "We want people to join us for whatever length of time they want!"
The evangelical multi-site, multiple-location church, founded by Pastor Craig Groeschel, draws more than 40,000 attendees across the country. The church's website invites people, saying, "Whether you're hungry or hurt, lonely or lost, full of questions or looking for a home, there's a place for you at LifeChurch.tv."