Jonah’ Prayer

Jonah 2:1-2

Let me share a quote on prayer with you from a book by John MacArthur, in his book “ALONE WITH GOD”

For Christians, prayer is like breathing. You don’t have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and forces you to breathe. That’s why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when you’re born into the family of God, you enter into a spiritual atmosphere wherein God’s presence and grace exert pressure or influences on your life. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we all have entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer. Only then can we survive in the darkness of the world.

Unfortunately, many believers hold their breaths for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is, every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths to be fully functional (John MacArthur, Alone With God).

This quote is simply to bring out the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian. “Prayer is like breathing” Once a human being stops breathing, they are dead. In the same way, once we stop praying, our spiritual life has died.

Let me ask a question. When was the last time you prayed?

This morning? Last night, last week, last month or you don’t remember when you last prayed? The Bible indeed testifies of the importance of prayer. Luke 18:1 says “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart”. This points out the necessity of prayer. We have to pray always and not get tired.

The whole of Jonah Chapter 2 is Jonah’s prayer after he has been swallowed by the big fish. (vv.1-2). We will walk through the Chapter briefly to pick a few thoughts about prayer.

Prayer is offered to God 

“Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God…” (v.1)

For the Christian, our prayer is offered to God and not to anyone else. We don’t pray to dead relatives, we don’t pray to dead saints, we don’t pray to idols nor do we even pray to or through Mary. We pray to God. The Genesis 1:1 God. The creator of the heavens and earth. See how verse 1 is structured: “The LORD his God.” The word the LORD in Hebrew is the word Yaweh. It’s God’s name which means “self-existent” one. This shows the God being referenced here. The self-existent God; “The LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land (Chapter 1:9). This point cannot be overemphasised. We need to get this clear and straight: We pray to only God. He is the object of our prayer.

Prayer Is Personal 

“Jonah prayed to the LORD his God” (v.1)

God is a personal God with who we can relate and identify on a personal level. “The LORD his God” gives an indication of a personal relationship. He prayed to God because he has a relationship with God.  The only grounds and basis by which we can come to God is by having a relationship with him. And this relationship is possible through faith in Christ. For the Christian, we can pray to God because he is our Father (Matthew 6:9)

Prayer Is Not Limited By Geography 

“From the belly of the fish” (v.1)

This must be an unusual place for prayer. The belly of the fish. It tells us of the attribute of God’s omnipresence which we saw in chapter 1. God is everywhere and our prayer is not limited by our location. All of Jonah’s prayer was offered from the belly of the big fish. There is no limitation to where prayer can be offered. And this should be counted as a blessing for us. Wherever we find ourselves, we can offer up prayer. And that should encourage us to pray.

Prayer is A Plea 

“I called out to the LORD…” (v.2)

There are many wrong perceptions about prayer out there. Nowadays you hear a lot about commanding, decreeing and proclaiming. But those are wrong and unbiblical.

Prayer is a plea! We call out to God to help. We bring our petitions before God. And that is nothing passive. Imagine Jonah in the belly of the big fish; suffocating, struggling to catch his breath, drowning in the midst of the water, acid and everything there is in the belly of the fish. He is in distress ( I called out to the LORD, out of my distress).  This is no joke. Jonah is experiencing death. He is having a real face to face encounter with death (Jonah 2:5-7). You don’t command and declare your way out of a situation like what Jonah finds himself. The word called is also translated as cried. And we see it in the next line: “Out of the belly of Sheol (hell, grave) I cried”

Isn’t this what Jesus did on the cross? Matthew and Mark recorded that on the cross Jesus cried out with a loud voice (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)

Prayer Must Be Offered In Faith 

“I am driven away from your sight, yet I shall look upon your holy temple.” (v.4)

Jonah in this verse feels a sense of separation from God. Have you ever had this sense of God is far away or his presence withdrawn from you? It feels like God has moved. And often this happens when we have indulged in sin or done something we think God is angry with us. The reality is that God didn’t move. Our guilt is playing on us. It is an illusion that God moved. In a sense, we moved away, God didn’t move.

There is a certain sense in this verse where Jonah is grappling with this illusion of God having drawn away or cast him away from his presence :“I am driven away from your sight” (v.4a) Now despite what Jonah is feeling, he puts himself together and says “yet I shall look upon your holy temple.” (v.4b).

What Jonah says here is a language of faith. I feel separated from God, but still, I will seek him. I will look upon his holy temple. He has deserted me, but I will still trust in him he seems to be saying.

It doesn’t matter what we feel. We must always turn to God in prayer in faith.

Prayer is Offered With Thanksgiving (v.9)

In all of his petitions; Jonah thanked God. Prayer is not only bringing our petitions before God. But it also includes thanksgiving. And we see it clearly in the text

But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (v.9)

God Answers Prayer 

Upon all the explanations about prayer, this is the most important. We pray because God answers prayers. 

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land (v.10).

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