How To Make The Most Of Your Fast image

How To Make The Most Of Your Fast

In this second of our two posts on the subject of fasting, we turn our attention to the practical issues. Drawing on a number of frequent questions, we examine good practices for wisely and fully engaging in a fast. For a discussion of Jesus teaching and the Biblical vision of fasting, why not take a look at the first post?

Are there any people who should not consider fasting?

If you are physically ill, have a long-standing medical condition, are pregnant or know of any other physical reasons why you shouldn’t be fasting, then you should not enter into the fast. If you have had struggles with eating in the past it would be wise to speak honestly with a trusted church leader who knows you before considering participation.

What level of participation should I pursue?

In my church we tend to set aside a week at the beginning of each term to concentrate on prayer and fasting to God. I ask everyone in the church to seek God and use their common sense when deciding how much to participate. For some people this might mean taking a couple of days out of each week to fast, others will miss certain meals, still others might fast the whole time: All are legitimate if the fast is undertaken for God and under His guidance.

What constitutes ‘food’?

Basically anything with nutritional value whether it is a solid or a liquid. As mentioned before, in Scripture fasting involves the omission of all food and the ingestion of only water.

How should I prepare to fast?

  • Spiritually - have a spiritual ‘clear out’ in your life prior to the fast: Forgive people you need to forgive, confess any sin as that might hinder your prayers (see Psalm 66:16-20 for a good example) and pray with a trusted friend through any hidden things that need to be brought into the light. Repentance is the foundation of prayer and fasting to God.
  • Physically - if you plan to fast more than a day at a time, you should consider eating smaller meals a couple of days before the fast. There can be a big drop in your blood sugar if you normally have a high fat and sugar diet so it is best to reduce your intake of these before the fast.

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 affected 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-effect 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 more than a week or so 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?

  • 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 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 will 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 work through a devotional book.
  • 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.
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