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An open letter to Chris Pratt at the start of his Daniel Fast

As Hollywood actor Chris Pratt announces he is embarking on the Daniel Fast, Emily Howarth cheers him on

Dear Chris Pratt,

Open letters are usually written by important people to other important people so people who are less important can ogle their debates.

I’m not an important person. I don’t even know that much about fasting. But you are important. As a Hollywood actor your voice influences thousands of people, especially young people. Despite my lack of importance, I’d still just like to offer you a little cheerleader-style pep talk from a fellow veteran of the Daniel Fast.

I’m the dictionary definition of a hangry person. If breakfast is not immediately available post-wake up, I get grumpy. If lunch doesn’t happen until 2pm then I’m probably going to go into a bubble of my own sulking. Fasting therefore is not my go-to spiritual discipline.

So a few years back, when my then-housemate told me she wanted to do the Daniel Fast I wasn’t jumping with joy. We’d been reading through Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and a whole chapter in particular on the importance of fasting. I'd tried to ignore it, but she was far more holy than me.

She had looked into fasting and stumbled across the Daniel Fast. For 21 days you eat a strict diet based on that of the ancient prophet when he is in exile in Babylon. Only fruit, vegetables, legumes and water. None of the yummy, modern, processed food but all of the Bible you can fit in. Simple. The idea was solidified by Susan Gregory and popularised through her book. There's a great little website which explains more. 

The fasting element was enough for me to inwardly groan and the more she described it, the more I dreaded it. But we were sharing a fridge and all the meals made from its contents so I figured I couldn’t tuck into whatever I wanted while she was abstaining from all things tasty. At least, not without feeling incredibly guilty. So we embarked on it together.

And it was honestly one of the most painful experiences of my spiritual life.

For the first three days I was a grumpy mess of caffeine-lacking headaches and stomach growls. I could barely focus on reading the Bible between yawns and desperate thoughts of chocolate biscuits.

But on day three, I woke up without an alarm for the first time I could remember. And I read my Bible and I prayed and I felt closer to God than I had done in a long time. I had my moments of near weakness. One week before we were due to end it, our pastor was preaching on Elijah in the desert. He joked about steak sandwiches delivered by ravens and I just couldn’t get past the promise of those sarnies. But we got to the end and I felt refreshed and renewed physically and spiritually.

So keep up the good work, it’s totally worth it! And keep telling people about it. Your witness really matters. When you told your Instagram followers: "Check it out; it’s 21 days of prayer and fasting. It's going to coincide, coincidentally, with the Lego Movie 2 junkets, so by the time you see me I'll probably be hallucinating" you offered 22.1 million people an insight into the everyday life of being a Christian.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline encouraged by Jesus for all believers. In Matthew 6:16-18, he says “when” not “if” you fast. It’s not for a devout few, but Hollywood actors like you and societal nobodies like me and everyone in between.

Sure, people are going to compare this to a diet. I've already seen so many news outlets linking it to photos from weeks earlier and saying you’re having body issues. Our world is way too focussed on what we look like so I can’t even imagine what it’s like in Hollywood.

We both know the Daniel Fast is pretty strict on what you can eat. And sure, some will go into it only for the (many) health benefits. But that’s not the point. The Daniel Fast is not about the impact of food on your outside, but the effects it has on your insides – your brain, your heart and your connection to God. So keep your eyes on Jesus and not on GQ.

And most of all keep talking about your faith, because the world is listening and we care.

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