Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, 2 and he said, “called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. 3 “For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. 4 “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ 5 “ Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. 7 “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. 8 “Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness, 9 but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.” 10 Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.
Dr. Jack Taylor was fond of saying, “We think we have to pray and then get on with the business but prayer is the business.” Jonah made the almost tragic mistake of getting on with the business before he prayed.
I. I WANT YOU TO NOTE FIRST OF ALL–WHEN HE PRAYED. Jonah 2:1, “Then Jonah prayed.” Note the then, it is in reference to everything that has happened previously. Jonah did not pray when God called him to Nineveh. He did not pray about the purchase of his cruise ticket nor the direction he was taking. He didn’t even pray when the Captain begged him to pray. Here is a backslidden preacher who does not even pray when someone has made a special request. Jonah finally prays but it is in Distress. There is an old adage–“There are no atheist in foxholes”. During the coward attack of the radical muslims on 9/11, I can almost guarantee you that people were praying in distress. Sometimes distress can not be avoided but in Jonah’s case, he created the distress. Had he been praying on a regular basis, had he been in fellowship with the LORD, he would not have been inside a fish and he would not have had to pray in distress. Everyone prays in distress. He not only prayed in distress, he prayed in Darkness. There is no light in the belly of a fish. No one takes a giant step into prayer. E. M. Bounds, George Mueller and David Brainard did just wake up one morning and discover that God had given them the gift of intercession. These men started small. They prayed daily for years and over time they became giants in prayer. We don’t wait until we understand the dynamics of prayer to pray, we begin in the darkness, we begin where we are. I am not sure that Jonah understood where he was but God heard his prayer. Thirdly, he prayed in Desperation. Verse 7 in the Good News Bible reads– “When I felt life slipping away, then O LORD, I prayed to You.” Jonah’s prayed when things got desperate. I hope that you and I don’t wait until things get desperate to pray. The only thing that saved Jonah was the mercy of God, otherwise God would have ignored his prayer.
II. NOTE NOT ONLY WHEN HE PRAYED BUT HOW HE PRAYED. Jonah had his weaknesses but familiarity with the word of God was not one of them. Jonah prays Scripturely. In this short prayer, Jonah quotes eight O.T. scriptures. He begins with a direct quote from Psalm 121, “And I called out in my distress To the LORD and He answered me.” It is never a bad idea to pray scripture because you know that you are praying within the bounds of God’s will. I John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Jonah prayed Fervently. I am telling you folks, I know that my prayers lack passion. It is sad that we have to get into a desperate straight to pray with passion. Elijah was a human being just like you and I but he prayed with passion. He prayed Honestly. If you cannot be intimate with your Heavenly Father, who can you be intimate with? He knows everything there is to know about you so why try to pretend. In prayer you should be yourself. You may as well tell him how you feel because He already knows. If He already knows, why tell Him? Because you need to remind yourself that He knows and until you agree with Him in confession, you are not going to have intimate fellowship and until you have intimate fellowship, you are not going to have passion in your prayer life.
III. THE THIRD AND FINAL POINT IS THE OUTCOME: WHAT WAS THE RESULT OF JONAH’S PRAYER? It is amazing: God heard and answered Jonah’s prayer. Jonah is the O.T. poster child for grace. There is no way that he deserved salvation. God would have been more than just to have allowed the bigoted rebel to sink to the bottom of the sea or be eaten by sharks. But God heard and God saved. Jonah made the fish sick at his stomach and the fish puked him up on or near the beach. So we have marvelous results here: Jonah gets his prayer ANSWERED. He gets RAISED UP from the pit, from the deep. Jonah was sinking low but God raised him up. Folks, we need to rejoice that Jesus is in the raising business. I may sink into the depths of physical death but I have nothing to fear because Jesus is going to raise me up hallelujah. God gave Jonah a SECOND CHANCE, a new beginning. No wonder Jonah exclaims– “Salvation is of Yahweh”…the Eternal One who has no beginning or no end. Our God is an awesome God and He does awesome things. He has no rivals. Jonah had contempt for pagans who worshipped idols, he knew that Yahweh was the creator of heaven and earth, that He is a living God and the God of the living. Buddha is not going to save anyone, Islam is not going to save anyone, no religion on earth will save anyone because Salvation is of the LORD and Jesus is LORD… “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Look to Jesus and live.