Context: Daniel, Shedrach, Meshack and Abrdnego were among the people taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. They were considered: “young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4).
The King instructed his chief Eunoch to provide daily for them, delicacies and drinks from the king’s treasure and they were to be on training for three years. Daniel made up in his mind, not to be defiled with the King’s delicacies or to drink his wine. The Jews had quite a strict diet which restricted them from eating food sacrificed to idols, for example. Daniel asked the Eunoch to test them for ten days with just vegetable and water. At the end of the ten days, their appearance was better than the other men who ate the King’s delicacies. The steward allowed them to continue eating vegetables only and to drink water. “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).
In terms of the 21 days, Daniel sought the Lord in chapter 10, to get answers about the situation concerning his people. Daniel was concerned that his people were in bondage and wanted to hear from God. “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (Daniel 10:2-3). As Daniel fasted, Gabriel was sent with a message for him on the twenty fourth day. Gabriel assured Daniel that from the first day of his fast, that his prayers were heard and he was sent to give him with the answer. However, Gabriel was held up by demonic activities in the region where Daniel lived. “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:13).
As Daniel continued in fasting and prayer, Michael the Chief angel was sent to help Gabriel in the spiritual battle. This allowed Gabriel to be released to bring Daniel’s answer, while Michael carried on fighting. This story gives us a glimpse into what is happening in the spirit realm, as we contend in prayer and fasting. Fasting is setting aside time to pray and seek the face of God. During this time, we limit our consumption of food and certain drinks as a sacrifice to God. Fasting is not a religious exercise and as long as we make a sacrifice to God, from a heart which is pleasing, God will respond.
Strictly speaking, Daniel and his friends ate vegetables and drank water. I believe that everyone can interpret the Daniel fast, based on their own conviction and different churches and denominations have interpreted this fast differently. What is generally consistent for most people, is giving up meat, processed foods, pastry and sweet drinks. If you are able to supplement your protein using vegetables and legumes then, that is great. Some people continue to have fish as a protein supplement. Pray and go as you feel led by the Holy Spirit. I would recommend cutting out excesses including: sugar, processed foods, anything deep fried, and meats.
The Daniel fast focuses on accessing divine favour and revelation knowledge to win spiritual battles.