An Honest Prayer in Jonah’s Quarantine
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice...”
Jonah 2:1–2, ESV
Most guys don’t like to cry. At least most don’t want anyone to see them if they do. As the coronavirus spread throughout the world, millions and millions of people have had to quarantine for one reason or another. Maybe you were one of the many? Maybe you came into contact with someone who tested positive? Maybe you yourself contracted the virus? Maybe you had an underlying health issue and couldn’t take the risk? It’s normal to experience fear and uncertainty in times like these. You are not alone!
In many ways, Jonah was quarantined too! He cried out to God as well! Being quarantined wasn’t really his choice. God had ordered a mandatory quarantine. He was confined to space about the size of a standard bedroom for three days. Inside the belly of a whale, God got Jonah’s attention, and Jonah started to pray.
First, we learn in Jonah’s prayer that he was honest with God. He says “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me.” (Jonah. 2:2) This is an echo of other old testament scriptures (see Psalms. 3:4; 120:1; Lamentations. 3:55). His honesty is real and raw; he in a sense blames God for his mandatory quarantine inside the belly of the whale by saying, “For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.” (Jonah. 2:3) He’s at least acknowledging everything in the sea and dry land is God’s (Psalm. 146:6).
As believers, we need to be honest with God. Jonah is right in saying that God was caused by the storm and appointed the fish. Yet he knows he’s to blame as well. For he already admitted, “I know it is because of me” (Jonah. 1:12), and we see in his prayer the honest crying-out to God from the belly of the whale. Calling it Sheol was to describe the heat and hellish environment it must have been, with extremely high temperatures and the putrid and pungent stench from stomach gases and acids of the whale, dead fish, and sea salt, and weeds. God sometimes wants us to camp out in places like this. Not to keep us in misery, but to have us long for more and more of His mercy. Sometimes, I think we forget just how far we’ve come or how good we have it, or how good God is. And these kinds of experiences teach us to love more, appreciate more, and cry out to God and hear his voice again in our lives. As Jonah said, “I cried, and you heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:2)
Let God know what you are thinking. Don’t be afraid to tell him what you are going through. You can pray silently now. Be open and honest with God. God’s word tells us to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18) and to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Take some time to pray whatever is on your heart. Honesty is always the best policy.