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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Jonah's Prayer

          Jonah was a reluctant prophet who ran away when God called him to duty.  Although he tried to run away, Jonah could not hide from God.  A terrible storm and impending death of a ship's crew awakened Jonah to the realization of the consequences of his ill-conceived actions.  He convinced the crew to save themselves by throwing him into the sea where he was swallowed by a giant fish sent by God.

 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.  He said:


"In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the deep,
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 brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.

"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
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD."


And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah 2:1-10 (New International Version)

            Jonah's prayer in chapter two is his psalm of rejoicing and praise to God who through grace saves us all from death when we have faith.   Jonah has spent three days inside the fish and obviously this is not his first and only prayer.  He has had a great deal of time to pray and to meditate on his situation and his life in general.

          He begins this psalm by recounting how he called to the Lord for help when he was in trouble and needed to be saved from his predicament.   How many times do we sail along without a thought of God when everything is going fine, but when trouble comes we start turning to God for help?  This is Jonah.  First he's trying to get away from doing what God has asked him to do, and then later he's calling God to help him.  The irony is God wanted Jonah to save others and Jonah in his rebellion later wants God to save him.  Thank goodness God always is keeping track of us and is ready to respond to a sincere prayer.

          It's obvious that Jonah knows his Psalms--his prayer is formatted like a traditional psalm and quotes directly from some of them:

 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
Psalm 18:5 (NIV)

 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave  ;
you spared me from going down into the pit.
Psalm 30:3 (NIV)

          Just as we are not given every detail of Jonah's story up to the point when he was swallowed by the big fish, we don't not know everything that happened after he was swallowed.  However from what we can guess from human behavior combined with what we are told in Jonah's psalm, we can discern there was probably a process that occurred over the three days inside the fish.  This process most likely included an initial panic and terror, a recognition of the severity of his situation, a resignation to his impending death, a turning back to God coupled with repentance, and a rejoicing in God's eternal goodness and grace which is the source of all salvation for humankind. 

            God heard Jonah's prayer and knew that Jonah was ready to fulfill the mission that he had been given.  Then Almighty God, who had sent the fish to swallow Jonah and keep him in its belly for three days and three nights, commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto the dry land.  Like one who had risen from the grave Jonah was back to continue on his way to save the people of Nineveh.

            Do you sometimes forget about God when life is going just fine?  Do you find yourself more apt to go to God for help when you are in trouble or need something?   Do you ever thank God for bringing you difficult times, sadness, or hardship?   Or do you become angry and complain when these things happen?  How often do you praise God and worship Him because of who He is and not because of what He has or hasn't done for you?

          Like the Lord's Prayer is used as a model for prayer, the psalms can be models for worshipful prayer like Jonah used.  Here is an example: 

 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD. 
 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.
 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.
Psalm 116:12-19 (NIV)

5 comments:

  1. Again Lee another uplifting post, It reminds me of the saying "You can run but you can't hide"

    Have a wonderful July 4th.

    Yvonne.

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  2. I had not heard that story since bible school how apropos you speak of this. I constantly pray for answers to shed light upon the dark. While I have yet to see an answer I have faith his plan is there.

    Sorry, just really wanted to say thanks for stopping by and say Happy Fourth.

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  3. I love Jonah's story...it is so powerful and such a testament to God's grace and mercy. This is one I needed to hear today.

    God bless you Lee and have a safe and happy 4th!

    Trudy

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  4. Hi Lee thanks for your comment much appreciated, out of all the list that was by the far hardest to do. pity there are not more to support you, look forward to the Soundtrack to Life fest.
    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment.

    ReplyDelete

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