Reports began circulating that the Pope was seriously ill. The faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Square to pray for his recovery and to get updates.
Periodically, a Cardinal would come to the balcony and give a report on the Pope’s condition. On one of these occasions, the Cardinal stated that the Pope would die without a heart transplant. Spontaneously, many in the crowd cried out, “I want to give MY heart for the Pope!”
The Cardinal relayed the message to the Pope that the people wanted to give their hearts for him. The Pope said, “They can’t do that – that would not be right.” But the Cardinal insisted that many were sincere in their desire to help.
Finally, the Pope agreed to their desire and suggested a plan. He said, “Take a feather and drop it from the balcony. And the one to whom it falls will be the donor.”
The spokesman went to the window of the balcony and explained the plan to the people. The crowd cheered and cried out for the Cardinal to drop the feather, so he did.
Everything became very quiet, and for the next half hour all they could hear was blowing, trying to keep the feather in the air.
The phrase “self-denial” tends to be a dirty word today.
This is a society that wants everything now – we want all we want, when we want it, and how we want it – and we don’t want anybody telling us how much or how little we can have.
On one occasion when Jesus was preaching in John 6, those who heard Him said, “Who can even listen to this? That is, when He began to talk about true discipleship. They didn’t ask the question, “Who can do this?” They said, “Who can even listen to this?”
By the end of the chapter many of His congregation had left. Jesus turned to the 12 and said, “Are you going too?”
What is our level of commitment? Is our love and devotion to Jesus Christ beyond the level of convenience?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6, Jesus has been giving instruction about giving to the poor and about prayer. Now He comes to a third word of instruction, in talking about the place of fasting in prayer.
Matthew 6:16-18 says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
A not-so-popular subject
Now, fasting is not a popular subject, but in this Scripture we clearly see a promise from the Lord to those who fast. Verse 18b, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
There is no way to genuinely fast without God rewarding that fast. Through both the Old and New Testaments, we see incident after incident of God’s people coming before Him in prayer and fasting.
Even in the history of our own country, James Madison, John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln all called for a time of fasting and prayer for the life of this nation. It makes me wonder what would happen in America today if President Obama were to call for a day of fasting and prayer for the life of this nation. I’m afraid he’d be jeered right out of office.
You may be asking the question today, “What does fasting do for me? Why should I fast?” After all, doesn’t the Lord say, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you?”
I mean, why should I want to fast when I have these kinds of promises for answered prayer? That’s what we’ll continue to look at in this series about fasting. Subscribe to our blog to be sure the next post makes it to your inbox.