- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lent, the period of fasting and abstinence begins Wednesday, so I thought I’d see what the new trends are out there on this ancient church season.

I found two books on the “Daniel fast,” a vegetarian diet requested by the biblical character Daniel in the sixth century B.C. when he was a Jewish teenager growing up in Nebuchadnezzar’s pagan court. He and his three fellow exiles in Babylon, unhappy with the non-kosher cuisine first offered them, managed to talk their way into a healthier diet after a 10-day experiment eating solely vegetables and water.

Daniel went on to become the equivalent of a prime minister, but he continued to fast. His encounters with archangels have encouraged believers that prayer combined with fasting moves the hands of God. That is the idea behind the best-known work on the topic, British-born scholar Derek Prince’s 1973 book, “Changing History Through Prayer and Fasting.”

In addition, there are cookbooks for fasting.

“The Daniel’s Fast Cookbook,” written by mother-daughter team Lynda Anderson and Grace Bass, came into being after Grace, the daughter, underwent a 21-day, water-only fast in the mid-1990s while begging God to save her marriage.

Her husband, Patrick, became a born-again Christian within a month. She also lost 50 pounds. The couple now live in Tempe, Ariz., where he pastors a nondenominational church.

“It’s a very powerful tool,” she says of fasting. “There is no more powerful catalyst into a deeper walk with God.”

Aided by her mother, a gourmet cook, Grace began to develop recipes — using only whole grains, water, vegetables and fruits — for people, such as diabetics, who want to go on multiday fasts but cannot subsist on merely water. Others had families who rebelled at nonstop vegetarian fare in place of their prepackaged pizzas.

Still others could not figure out how to cook enough meals for such a project.

“Many people were quitting their commitment to the fast,” she said. “I really had a burden to help them.”

In her research, she looked everywhere for resources but found little. Some of the vegan books she located used fermented products such as vinegar and wine. Daniel abstained from wine, and she decided to avoid anything with yeast.

There is a huge counterculture of Christians interested in fasting. There are the lions of the discipline, such as the late Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright, who started yearly 40-day juice-only fasts in 1994 to pray for worldwide revival.

He was so enthused about the practice, he recommended every pastor, seminarian or youth leader do at least one 40-day fast at some point in their lives.

“I wasn’t even hungry for the 40 days,” he told an Assembly of God publication in 2001.

And there’s Jentezen Franklin, a Gainesville, Ga., pastor who leads his church in a 21-day “corporate fast” every January. His Web site lists “types of fasts,” “fasting contract,” “fasting blog,” “fasting basics” and “fasting resources.”

Then there are the cowards of the discipline, such as yours truly — I have hated every moment of any fast I’ve taken part in. So, Grace Bass’ approach is to provide a type of fast that is attainable for the faint of heart.

“If you humble yourself, pray and seek God with all your heart,” she told me, “He will respond.”

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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