Are there any general physical concerns a healthy person should have going into and coming out of the fast?
Everybody has a different metabolism and so will be effected differently by fasting. However, some general comments can be made:
- If you usually drink a lot of tea, coffee or other caffeinated drinks, cutting them out can cause your body to suffer caffeine withdrawal (resulting in headaches etc.) Maybe you could cut down prior to the fast so it is not such a shock to the system.
- Bearing in mind the above, you may wish to drink some prune juice or something with a similar laxative effect prior to undertaking an extended fast, to guard against constipation. One side-effected of fasting can be bad breath. To combat this, for the sake of others, you might like to add a slice of lemon to your water!
- If you have fasted for the whole two weeks (or even for an extended time within them,) you should be wise about how you break the fast. Your digestive system will have ‘gone to sleep’ and you should not immediately bombard it with lots of food (even if you are very hungry!) but work up gradually, starting with juice, fruit and other easily digestible foods.
How can I use my time most wisely whilst fasting?
Here are some general pointers:
- Planning - Before the fast, familiarise yourself with the prayer objectives of the church. Spend some time perhaps with a pen and paper jotting down things for yourself, your family, friends and neighbours that you would like to seek the Lord for when the fast comes around. Doing some planning in advance can be really helpful as sometimes it is more difficult to focus whilst on the fast itself.
- Resting - Remember that you will require more rest than usual and decide your level of participation accordingly. For example; if you are a working parent, you have to ensure that your work and family life do not suffer inordinately and so, it would probably be unwise to fast more than a day or so at a time unless you felt a specific grace from God to do so. Likewise for those involved in physically demanding jobs. As well as increased resting, remember to drink almost double the amount of water you normally would.
- Praying - As mentioned at the beginning, praying and fasting are separate but related disciplines. Harmonising them can be very powerful indeed. For example, you may find the extra time afforded by missing meals can be profitably turned into focused prayer times.
- Focus - Remember, your primary focus is God himself and not the fast you are undertaking. Use the time to consider His attributes - His love and sustaining power, His creative and restorative ability, His humility and self-sacrifice, His fathering of you, His love for His people etc. You might like to use a devotional book such as J I Packer’s ‘Knowing God’ (the audiobook available as a free download this month at christianaudio.com)
- Meeting up - Gathering with God’s people during a fast to seek Him in prayer and worship can be one of the most exciting missionary activities that the church participates in! Individually humbled, gathered together in front of a loving, powerful God, all of us looking to Him to fulfil His great purposes.