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 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.’”
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
When we engage in truly honest prayer, we bare our souls before God while trusting that He will answer the prayers, not necessarily in the ways that we desire, but in the ways that He knows to be best. Think of a time when you have fervently prayed and been able to see God’s answer to your prayer. What was your prayer? How did God answer it? Was it the answer that you were expecting?
Jonah begins his prayer with the conviction that God is listening to him, and he prays with the assurance that “He answered me.”
When we think about God answering prayers, we often think about this from the perspective of God answering the prayer with a “yes;” however, God’s answers are often “no,” “maybe,” or “not yet.”
Read Psalm 61, which is often called a Prayer of the Assurance of God’s Protection, and then re-read Jonah, chapter 2.
One of the children of the church, named Gardner, said that prayer “is talking with God, and you can do it in your heart without talking out loud.” In this passage from Jonah, we do not know whether Jonah prays his prayer aloud or if this is a prayer that remains in his heart, as it is lifted up to the Lord.
In Jonah’s prayer, he mentions that “those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Twenty-first century American culture often portrays idols as those people whom we should strive to emulate; however, in Christianity, idols are those things that we worship in place of God. John Calvin wrote “man’s nature … is a perpetual factory of idols,” as a way of saying that humans tend to create things that pull us away from God.
Jonah ends his prayer with a seemingly simple statement: “salvation comes from the Lord.” In this instance, he is referring to salvation for himself from the belly of the fish, salvation for the city of Nineveh, to which he has been called to prophesy, and also salvation for Israel, as they would benefit from Nineveh’s change in heart.
Through prayer, Jonah seeks to draw back to the path on which God has called him to be, and God answers Jonah’s prayer by freeing him from the belly of the fish. Now, Jonah must follow God’s call from which he had initially fled.
Lord God, You are our Salvation and the only true hope that we have in our lives. You seek good for us each hour and each day, and You pour Your blessings upon us more richly than we can ever begin to understand. Though we know this to be true, we still often do not respond to Your ever-present grace and mercy with thankful and prayerful hearts. Form us through the power of Your Holy Spirit that we might seek to deepen our relationship with You through a life centered in communication with You, through prayerfully seeking to follow You. In Jesus’ name, we pray; amen.
The book of Jonah is much more than a story about a man who went overboard and ended up in the belly of a whale; it’s also about the way God goes overboard to show his love to the world. Join us as we look into the book and listen to God’s heart!