A Stinky Prayer
What do you do when you go through a crisis? Do you panic? Do you flee? Do you quit? Do you give up? Do you make yourself sick?
We learned from that Jonah decided to not heed the call and command of the Lord. In fact, Jonah countered God’s call and tried to get as far from Nineveh as he could. His flight from God caused him a crisis.
Can you imagine the thoughts as he was thrown overboard into a raging sea, trying to stay afloat and gasping for every breath, then all of the sudden he gets swallowed up in this very large fish.
As the fish swallows him up, he finds himself inside the fish, but very much alive. Talking about a crisis! What would you do? What could you do?
But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
We learn in chapter 1 verse 17 that Jonah was inside the fish for 3 days. Jesus makes reference to this as we alluded to last week as found in and . It is significant that just as Jonah was in the fish for 3 days, Jesus was also in the grave for 3 days. During those 3 days as we learn from the Easter story, Jesus conquered death and paid the price for our sins.
Why do you think that Jonah was in that great fish for 3 days before we learn that he prayed?
What kind of fish is swallowing you up right now? What kind of crisis are you facing?
Are you being swallowed by the fish of your circumstances? A sickness? Pain of some kind? Perhaps some type of agony?
Are you able to overcome or will it overcome you?
Is your big swallowing fish bigger than your awesome, mighty God?
Jonah gives us great insight into handling such a crisis.
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.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying “I have been driven to my knees more often than not because I have no where else to go.”
Why do you think that Jonah was in that great fish for 3 days before we learn that he prayed?
Maybe he thought he could work it out himself. Maybe he thought his situation would change.
Have you ever been there? Jonah certainly is in such a position. Calamity after calamity has come upon him and he now finds himself alive and in the belly of a great fish. Perhaps you have never been in the belly of a fish no have I, but I have been around fish enough to know that it would stink and really be nasty. Kind of turns your stomach doesn’t it?
For three days. What does one do on the inside of a great fish for 5 minutes, for an hour, for 72 hours? I don’t think it would have been much of a behind the scenes tour that one might get at Sea world. Can you imagine the torture, the anguish and the panic that hit him?
When a crisis hits us, it is our nature to panic, to think the worse of what could happen. We don’t have the details of what went through Jonah’s mind here. What would go through your mind? Would your life flash before you? Would you see the faces of your loved ones? Would you wonder if you would ever see them again?
We can’t say if Jonah did this or not, we do know however, that in the stench and stink, Jonah decided to pray. It seems to me that the best decision that you and I can make in every situation and especially in crises, is to pray.
So let’s ask a couple of questions.
First, where should you pray?
Should one pray just in a building like this or in a place that is reserved for holiness?
If Jonah prayed inside the fish, I think that it is safe to say that one can pray anywhere because our God is Everywhere!
This leads us to another question: To Whom should you pray? I hear people all the time asking for “prayers and good vibes for relief of a situation. Or please send good thoughts towards so and so for they are having a tough time.”
In many scenarios, people pray to objects of even use objects in their prayer. Jonah makes it clear that when he finally prays, he prays to the Lord.
A third question is answered here for us: How should you pray?
Jonah uses phrases and words that are not coincidental. It will take a few minutes, but notice here these where these phrases come from:
Verse 2 “In my distress”
I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.
Verse 3 “from the deep”
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Verse 4 “banished from Your sight”
In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.
Verse 5 “the engulfing waters”
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
Verse 7 “life ebbing away”
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.
Verse 8 “Clinging to worthless idols”
I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the Lord.
Verse 9 “thanksgiving”
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,
From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. Selah
Jonah is an inspired man. It is a spirit of faith that Jonah identifies himself with the saints of old, appropriating their experiences as recorded in God’s words.
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
Remember the hymn?
Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Through eternal ages let His praises ring, Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God.
Refrain: Standing, standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior; Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God. Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, By the living Word of God I shall prevail, Standing on the promises of God.
Jonah’s prayer is indeed a prayer based on the promises of God! It is a prayer of thanksgiving. Should it have been a prayer of repentance? Maybe so. However, it is the mighty love of our God that hears our prayer of thanksgiving and takes action.
That reminds me of who initiated the reconciliation. Do you see that? It is God that initiates reconciliation!
I am once again drawn to this incredible verse:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I must caution you, praying to our Lord may change you! Jonah recognizes that he cannot overcome this crisis by himself. He realizes that it is his own doing, his own sin that gets him in this crisis. When you sin, you are worshiping your own greedy self. You sin because your worship is out of whack Jonah recognized that that he needed to look from his sin and look to his God. We worship our way into sin and we have to worship our way out.
Jonah comes to the Lord with a cry of praise. Jonah also resolves to pay his vows to his God. Jonah then realizes that salvation is not of oneself but salvation comes from the Lord.
God delivers the rebellious believer when that person humbles himself or herself and calls upon the Lord. All of God’s goodness is extended to the undeserving sinners. Grace and forgiveness are only found in God!
Jonah makes a transition from being selfish to worshiping God to sharing God’s love to those that did not know Him.
There is a pattern that you and I can follow here. We too can make this same transition!
Jonah looked inward and recognized his sin. He looked upward to reconnect with His God and the result of doing so made him look outward to share the goodness of God with those that need Him most!
I have heard it said that when a believer feels that he or she has hit rock bottom, that person can find their footing on the solid rock!
Notice what happens to Jonah at the end of this chapter:
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
When we cry out to God, He hears us and saves us. God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. Do you think Jonah was bitter or do you think he was ecstatic to be on that dry land, even though he was in that mess? I have tried to wrap my mind around this thought.
God spoke to to the fish one time and the fish responded immediately.
God provided mercy for Jonah to free him from this calamity.
So far in these two chapters there are 7 miracles:
God caused the violent storm
God had the lot fall on Jonah
God calmed the sea when Jonah was thrown overboard
God commanded the fish to swallow him
God had the fish transport Jonah safely for 3 days
God had the fish throw Jonah up on dry land
But the greatest miracle was that God melted a disobedient heart as evidenced in this beautiful prayer of thanksgiving!
So would you be more concerned about being in the middle of throw up or would you be thankful for the Mercy of God?
What say you?