Jesus Christ said, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer.”

The Prayer of Jonah (Part 1) (Praying Through the Bible #101)

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TEXT: Jonah 2

We are all familiar with Jonah’s story. He was the disobedient prophet whom God told to go and preach at Ninevah, but he didn’t want to go, and he thought he could run away from God. Jonah got on a ship headed in the opposite direction. The ship was going to Tarshish which was all the way at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea in modern-day Spain. Well, Jonah found that just as God knew how to get to him on land, God knew how to get to him at sea. God stirred up a storm so bad that it frightened the seasoned sailors whom he was sailing with. Jonah knew that God was trying to get his attention specifically, and he told the sailors, “If you throw me into the sea, the storm will stop.” So, Jonah gets thrown overboard. The Bible tells us that God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and the last verse of Jonah 1 reads, “And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

In the next chapter, our passage for tonight, Jonah is talking to God. He is praying. Before, He didn’t want to have anything to do with God; he was trying to get away from God. But, now that he finds himself in the belly of a great fish, all alone beneath the surface of the water — as good as dead to the rest of the world — he finds himself wanting to talk to God. Some scholars have suggested that by the tense used in this chapter, these are actually Jonah’s words after the three days and three nights in the fish’s belly. We read that “Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights,” and right after that we see the word “then”, indicating a progression of time. In other words, Jonah spent three days and three nights mad at God, sulking in the belly of the fish. As you can imagine, that did him no good, and so finally — “then” — he decides to call on God.
Let’s take a look at Jonah’s prayer.

1. Notice the painful predicament. Jonah is quite literally in a mess. As he lifts his voice to God out of the belly of the fish, he describes the mess that he is in in very vivid and striking terms.

2. Notice the passionate prayer. Jonah spends some time just telling God how he truly feels about the situation he is in. He does what we call ‘venting.’ And, that is fine. God already knows how you feel anyway, so there is no use trying to dress up those feelings when you pray. But, once Jonah gets past his feeling about his situation, he gets down to the business of prayer. He says, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord.”

3. Notice the perfect peace. In the dark and stinking belly of a great fish, Jonah found peace with God. Jonah says that when he cried to the Lord, “he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” What a comfort it is to know that God can hear you anywhere. Others may abandon you or may simply be unable to help you, but God’s ear is always open to the cries of His children, no matter how backslidden or rebellious they are. God is always ready to hear the prayer of his repentant child.

Through prayer, Jonah was able to find perfect peace in the midst of his painful predicament. The question for us, today, is: are we running away from God? Is there something that we know God wants us to do or to stop doing that we refuse to do? We can see from Jonah’s example that God has a way of getting our attention, and the best thing we can do is humble ourselves in prayer to God, realize that He is in control of our lives, and commit to obeying Him.