We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and our need for the love and forgiveness shown to us in Jesus Christ. I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a Holy Lent, by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by practicing works of love, and by reading and reflecting on God's Holy Word.
As you pray and fast, you will call on God, and He will answer you. Answered prayer is the quintessence of praying and fasting. If I were to share with you the five or six pages of the prayer journal I prepared prior to my first forty-day fast, and then walk you back through my journal since then, you would see one thing: My prayers were answered. They are still being answered. There is something to the disciplines of prayer and fasting. I could point you to every experience of long-term fasting where God has answered my requests before Him. This does not mean they were answered as I preferred, but it did not matter. He had worked in my heart, and I was released, fully confident that God was ordering my way. When we humble ourselves before the Father, and when God sees we are serious about giving Him our broken spirits, He begins to do things we have never seen before. It’s empowering. It sensitizes us to the needs of others at home and overseas as we suddenly find ourselves quietly praying for people, events, and situations with the knowledge that our prayers not only will be heard but that the Father will answer them.
The purpose of fasting is never explicitly stated in Scripture but its connection to penitence, mourning, and supplication suggests a self-denial that opens one to God and to the immaterial aspects of life. Inasmuch as food and drink typify life in the flesh and all its demands and satisfactions, their absence or rejection speaks to the reality of a higher dimension, one in which the things of the spirit predominate. The theology of fasting, then, is a theology of priorities in which believers are given the opportunity to express themselves in an undivided and intensive devotion to the Lord and to the concerns of the spiritual life.
That breakthrough might be in the realm of the spirit. It may be in the realm of your emotions or personal habits. It may be in the realm of a very practical area of life, such as a relationship or finances. What I have seen repeatedly through the years-not only in the Scriptures but in countless personal stories that others have told me -- is that periods of fasting and prayer produce great spiritual results, many of which fall into the realm of a breakthrough. What wasn't a reality . . . suddenly was. What hadn't worked . . . suddenly did. The unwanted situation or object that was there . . . suddenly wasn't there. The relationship that was unloving . . . suddenly was loving. The job that hadn't materialized . . . suddenly did.
Having issues with an eating disorder, I feel equipped to answer your question. The purpose of fasting is to take the focus off of being fulfilled by anything other than God. You can confess your addiction to the Lord and fast with the anticipation that He will free you from this addiction. Fasting and praying can help you gain mastery over your thoughts and behaviors. The enemy will try to attack you with all kinds of nonsense, but if you are prepared for the attack with God's Word, you will stand strong. After breaking the fast, employ the wisdom and self control that you gained during the fast and refuse to accept your former behaviors.
Fasting is always practiced prior to surgery or other procedures that require general anesthesia because of the risk of pulmonary aspiration of gastric contents after induction of anesthesia (i.e., vomiting and inhaling the vomit, causing life-threatening aspiration pneumonia). Additionally, certain medical tests, such as cholesterol testing (lipid panel) or certain blood glucose measurements require fasting for several hours so that a baseline can be established. In the case of a lipid panel, failure to fast for a full 12 hours (including vitamins) will guarantee an elevated triglyceride measurement.