In Isaiah's time, people were confused about fasting. The Israelites cried out to the Lord: "Why do we fast, and You do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and You take no note of it?" (Is 58:3) Isaiah prophesied: "Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?" (Is 58:5)
In Zechariah's time, people were also confused about fasting. Bethelsarezer asked the priests and the prophets: "Must I mourn and abstain in the fifth month as I have been doing these many years?" (Zec 7:3) The Lord answered: "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month these seventy years, was it really for Me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, was it not for yourselves that you ate, and for yourselves that you drank?" (Zec 7:5-6)
When Jesus walked the earth, some of the religious leaders said to Jesus: "John's disciples fast frequently and offer prayers; the disciples of the Pharisees do the same. Yours, on the contrary, eat and drink freely" (Lk 5:33). Jesus dispelled their confusion by stating that His disciples would fast in a radically new way after His Ascension (Lk 5:35).
Before Vatican II, the Church told us to abstain from meat on Fridays and to fast for the forty days of Lent. After Vatican II, the Church's laws regarding Friday abstinence and fasting were significantly lessened. Some people thought that the Church was de-emphasizing fasting. However, Pope John Paul II has made it very clear that fasting with prayer is extremely important. He stated: "Prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil" (The Gospel of Life, 100).
Don't be confused, selfish, or defeated. Fast!