When the traditional period of lent began Wednesday, more than 150 Biola University students, professors and staff were already involved in the Daniel Fast.
The Daniel Fast became popular in California last year when hundreds of students from around the nation participated in the fast before The Call assemblies, a movement which emphasized prayer, worship and fasting for spiritual growth. The trend not only echoes a growing popularity of fasting for health and spiritual reasons among college students; it also serves as a reminder that putting God first in one’s life cannot be reserved for one short period of time.
“There is something powerful about the body coming together for a unified purpose,” said senior Derek Brokke, assistant director of Revive Ministries at Biola.
A school-wide call for the fast went out last month, and participants began the popular three week fast February 21. Taken from Daniel 1:8 and 12, the fast requires participants to fast from meats and sweets or special and rich foods, with many eating only vegetables and fruits. Others have chosen to fast from something they spend too much time on, such as Facebook or television.
Biola’s fast has focused on its upcoming March 17-19 annual Biola University Missions Conference, “Set Us Ablaze.”
“[We’re] choosing to pray that God will move in our hearts and lives, that he will stir us up, that he will bring us closer to him,” freshman Amy Gerlach said. “[We’re praying for] unity on campus, and that God’s will be done through the conference. Likewise, praying for our generation as a whole and for the nations and that God will raise up his people to share his love and Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
During the first week of the fast, participants prayed for personal refinement. The second week of prayer focused on the body of Christ, while the last week is focusing on praying for the nations.
Missions conference director Rebekah Pierce said planners have been posting scripture on the Facebook event wall for the fast every day, with each verse corresponding with a week’s overarching theme. Several participants also met every weekday morning for prayer during the fast.
Participants said the communal aspect of the fast has encouraged them and guessed that might have something to do with why the Daniel Fast has become so popular among college students.
“Community amplifies the amount of power God anoints his people with,” sophomore Jamie Corder said. “It is also a great way to build and encourage community because it unites us in the Spirit and in purpose. We can rally behind one cause, for God to show up in power and love at Missions Conference.”
Gerlach said suffering is easier for a person who is not alone in their suffering.
“It ceases to be ‘me’ and becomes ‘us,’” Gerlach said. “It brings me into a bigger picture, a bigger purpose far greater than me.”
“One reason that community is a great part of fasting, especially for revival and repentance, is that we see communal fasts in the Bible,” Brokke said.
Brokke said the prophet Joel repeatedly urges the people of Judah to "consecrate a fast" and to "call a solemn assembly," or prayer gathering (Joel 1:14, 2:15).
Brokke pointed to 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land’
“This verse demonstrates the power of communal action,” Brokke said. “Even beyond that, setting our hearts as a community to seek the Lord and deny the flesh allows the community to grow closer to each other as we pursue and draw near to the heart of God. There is power in individual fasts, but corporate fasts are an expression not just of the individual member longing for God, but the of bride of Christ calling together with the Spirit ‘Come Lord Jesus.’”
For more information on the conference, visit http://smu.biola.edu/conference/.