Prayers Of The Bible: Jonah’s Prayer in Jonah 2:1-9
1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
It’s probably one of the most unique settings for a prayer in all of Scripture and a place none of us would ever want to be. Jonah infamously is the prophet who lands himself inside of a whale (or at least a big fish, the Bible doesn’t specifically say). He’s made some bad choices, followed his head instead of the Holy Spirit, and finds himself on a boat to a place God did not tell him to go. The boat soon runs into bad weather and stormy seas. Jonah realizes his error in not obeying God’s command to go to Ninevah, the people he was sent to preach to. He knows if he is not on the boat, the rest of the crew will live. He’s thrown overboard and gets gulped up by the whale.
We know the story quite well. But have we seen a similar set of circumstances played out in our lives? Here’s how it usually goes:
1. God gives us a command to do something
2. We do not want to follow “said command"
3. We decide we are not going to listen to God
4. God allows a crisis moment in our lives in which we cry out to Him
5. We ask for God’s forgiveness and the opportunity to be restored out of the mess we’ve made
6. God restores us and sets us on a right path once again
7. We understand His original command and follow through in obedience
If you’re like me, you’ve gone through steps 1-7 a time or two (or fifty) in your life. It’s the human condition we are all born into. We choose sin over Savior. We choose self over surrender. It’s ugly and it can lead to us being in some pretty nasty situations. Just look at Jonah: a man lying in the belly of a whale, seaweed wrapped around his neck, smelling who-knows-what inside of that beast…all because he chose to say no to God.
Today’s installment of Prayers Of The Bible really can speak on several different levels. Some may find they are in the whale, in a place resulting from bad choices and disobedience. There’s something in Jonah’s prayer for you today. Others may have left the whale, but still feel a nagging sense that they’ve let God down and the guilt won’t subside. Jonah has something for you as well. Finally, there are some who are seeing the bad choices others close to them have made and are wondering what it will take for them to finally be set free; to get out of the bad spot they are in. Jonah has something comforting for you today also!
Guys I’m excited about this prayer today. I love the Book of Jonah. Let’s dig in!
1. Jonah understands God is a God who is near
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:1
It’s easy to say as a prophet, Jonah had all the right answers. He was in touch with God. He was even a mouthpiece for God to call people out of their wickedness. That does not mean he was infallible. Men and women in leadership roles within the church are human and they can easily stray and falter. God had clearly told Jonah that he was to go: The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1:1 For whatever reason: perhaps fear, perhaps doubt, maybe just a prejudice against the people of Ninevah, Jonah decided to flee in the opposite direction. His act was outright defiance and disobedience before God.
The prayer in Jonah 2 are the words of a desperate man who could have turned inward and sunk further into separation from God. But he realized that even in his sin, God was still close by. God could have allowed Jonah to drown. He could have started over with someone else. He did not. In His grace, He allows the fish to swallow up Jonah and in that, Jonah realizes he has been spared and given a second chance. As dark as the place is where he sits, God is not far off and distant. God is near. For you and I, this brings great hope. Jesus never abandons us when we are in the pit of life. His presence is there and we need only to call upon His name to be brought into right standing once again.
2. Jonah remembers that God is a God who restores
When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Jonah 2:7
Sometimes when we are in a place like Jonah was and then come out of it, we feel unworthy and undeserving. Quite honestly, that is a natural response and there should be some level of acknowledgement on our part of our unworthiness. We are not worthy of God’s generous grace upon our lives. We have nothing to give to Him, nor could we ever repay Him. But for some, guilt hangs on. Satan uses our unworthiness to say “See, you are too far gone. You made a mess of things and God can never use you.”
The great thing about Jonah’s whale conversion experience is that it forces him to rely upon the character of God, not his own. He knows his own sinfulness. He knows apart from God, he’s a screw-up, a mess-up, and he’ll never get it right. But…he remembers God! How often do we forget that our identity is made new when we place our trust in Christ? We are literally not our own any longer, but we are His. His most prized possession. That is the truth we need to cling to when the Enemy comes knocking.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Corinthians 6:19,20
3. Jonah knows God is a God of hope
Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. Jonah 2:8
In these few short verses Jonah has come to know that God is near, that He restores, and finally there is hope in Him. He ran the other way fully expecting to avoid God’s call. I’m not sure why he thought he could outsmart God, but then again, I’m not sure why I think I can outsmart Him either! We all take the route of Jonah at some point. We all believe we have life figured out and we’ll just take it from here. But God knows better and knows that we cannot survive long in this life without His presence.
For some of you, this last point is hard because the situation you’ve found yourself in (or someone else) seems so hopeless. It seems beyond repair and beyond any level of restoration. And let me say, from our limited capability, everything is beyond repair. We have no means to fix our brokenness. We have no way to bridge the great chasm that lies between us and the Father. But praise God that Jesus was offered up for us! His death covers all our sin...all of it. We like to categorize and say some sin is bigger and some lesser. Some is easily forgiven and some cannot be. But to accept Christ’s work of salvation means to accept it at face value. Your sin is remembered no more.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12
As far as anything I’ve written this year, this message comes home as probably the strongest salvation-type blog I’ve done in 2019. I’ve spent some time casting vision for what God has laid before me. I’ve centered on a message of perseverance, of staying the course, and being in this race for the long haul. But I know that we face a common Enemy and the Devil has his sights set on many this year. He wants to tear apart families. He wants to destroy marriages. He’d love for the fire and passion burning within our hearts to grow cold; to become barely a flicker.
So I end this week’s blog with a plea and a request. If I can pray for you in any way, I would love to do that. It is completely between us. It can even be an unspoken. But please do not allow any burden you are carrying to be carried alone. Jonah went into the belly of the whale but Jesus was there. David said there was nowhere he could run from God’s presence (Psalm 139:7-12). I want you to know Christ is close to you in any and all situations. I want to be there to uphold you in prayer and stand in the gap with you.
Guys I love you! It’s a joy and a humble privilege to run this race alongside you.