3 Keys to Jonah’s Prayers in Quarantine
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish…
Jonah 2:1, ESV
In a recent study on the content of the average American’s prayer life, it was a shocking discovery to see that the vast majority of those that said they prayed regularly said they gave thanks to God for the blessings that he had brought into their lives. This perhaps is encouraging news for us as Americans in today’s culture where there is so much negativity, racial, and political tensions. We discovered there is still a prayerful remnant that is praying and holding on to hope, even in the hard times.
HOLD ON TO HOPE
As we read in Jonah’s prayer, we find hope. He says, “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (Jonah. 2:7). He reflected on the traumatic experience and acknowledged that God heard his prayers. And then he stated how “those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8). He was likely referring to others who had never experienced the grace of God or the love of God and turned to worthless idols, or perhaps he is even thinking of himself who turned to the idol of self, and ran from God, abandoned his calling and broke his commitment. Hope is what got him through. Hope is what gets us all through.
As one commentator noted:
Jonah acknowledges that he had been sinking down—a process that had begun before he even got to Joppa in 1:3. The self-induced downward slide had brought him to the very gateway of death. He describes himself as being at the depths of the grave, but the Lord his God had brought his ‘life up from the pit’ (v. 6). (Markel, Opening Up Jonah)
God had been so good to Jonah; he had orchestrated seven different miracles to get his attention. As Dr. Hannah notes:
Seven miracles have taken place already in this short narrative: God caused a violent storm (1:4), had the lot fall on Jonah (1:7), calmed the sea when Jonah was thrown overboard (1:15), commanded the fish to swallow Jonah (1:17), had the fish transport him safely, had the fish throw Jonah up on dry land, and perhaps greatest of all, melted the disobedient prophet’s heart (evidenced by his thanksgiving prayer in chap. 2).
This is perhaps why Jonah’s prayer is driven to praise and thanksgiving. Any Bible student would discover that, after examining Jonah’s prayer, it’s loaded with twenty-one different scriptural references, that is roughly for every verse in the prayer there are two other verses that correspond with them.
SCRIPTURE SATURATED PRAYERS
What does this mean? It means Jonah knew God’s word. He’s finally praying as well. He’s prayers are filled with scripture. There is, perhaps, no more powerful prayer to pray for the Christian than that of the prayer that is the very Word of God. This may be why we read in Joshua 1:8 that we are to meditate day and night on God’s word. Or as the Psalmist says, we ought to store it up in our hearts (119:11).
As a pastor, I have found a great deal of peace as I am able to recall passages of scripture that I have memorized. In my times of discussion with others or in prayer in public or private, my mind is able to recall God’s very words on the matter. There seems to be a more real presence of the Holy Spirit in these times. Perhaps this is why the Psalmist says, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalms 40:8).
COMMIT TO GOD
In closing, we see how Jonah was committed to follow through. He says, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9) Jonah knows that his life depends on God. He will finally obey and arise. He will be ready to go to Nineveh and fulfill his divine mission, when God says it’s time. He was committed. Are you? That’s the call of every Christian. Every Christian has a price to pay for being faithful. Are you committed? The Apostle James made it clear that Christians should show their faith by their actions because faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26).
Be hopeful in prayer. Let your prayers be saturated in scriptures, and make a commitment to God to live for him today. What’s one area of your life God wants you to commit to him more? Maybe it’s memorizing scripture so you pray, prayers that are more in line with God’s heart? Take a minute and ask God to reveal and area of commitment he wants from you, then go and do that!