Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
- Jonah 1:17 – Jonah 2:1
“A minister and his wife were once met at a train station by a woman who had been assigned to drive them to their hotel. As they approached the center of town, the traffic was very heavy. ‘You can let us off at the nearest corner,’ the minister suggested, certain she would never find a parking space close to their hotel.
“’No trouble,’ she said. Then she began to pray, ‘God, we really need a parking space. If one is nearby, please lead me to it.’ She drove around the block a couple of times, then just as they turned the corner a car pulled out of a parking space right in front of their hotel. She said sincerely, ‘Thanks, God. I really appreciate this!’
“The minister’s wife asked the woman if she always asked God for such favors. She answered, ‘Oh, yes. I chatter to God all the time. I can’t help it. He seems to be so close that I talk to Him just the way I’d talk to my best friend.’
“God delights in meeting our small needs just as much as our big ones – the same as any loving friend or father. All prayer, and all answers to prayer, build our relationship with God. And a deep personal relationship – marked by ongoing, free-flowing communication – is what God desires to have with each of us.”
- Honor Books Publishing, God’s Little Devotional Book on Prayer
There was a footnote in that the quoted story, all but the last paragraph, came from The Guideposts Handbook of Prayer, Phyllis Hobe, editor (1982).
My third post ever was titled Silly Prayers. My wife had the same kind of prayer as this driver had. And we got a parking place very close to the entrance and it seemed the traffic parted for us to get there. I have even revisited the concept of ‘silly prayers’ with an updated post.
But now I know of another person who prays like my wife does. In fact, I may not pray out loud, but I have similar conversations with God. In fact, I have more of those kinds of prayers than I do the “Oh, Lord, I have prepared a list of supplications, but you know that I only come to you with these supplications because you are an awesome God. I thank you for making me one of your own. You are greater than the greatest. So here starts my list…” Meaning, the recitation of my scheduled prayer lists, with all its formality, is pathetic and the schedule is haphazard. But the “just talking” prayers are early and often throughout the day.
When God adopts us as His children, we should start thinking about how we would respond to a loving father. That kind of relationship is what God desires. He is still God; He is still in control; but, giving Him that respect, we need to communicate with Him just like we communicate with our best friend.
I did not say “with our earthly father.” Some may not have had an earthly father, at least one that they knew, or maybe not a loving one. Yet, we might imagine what that could be like to have a loving father and God will be that and more.
And this devotion proves that my wife with her “silly prayers” is not alone. And her prayers are never silly. She simply knows that we need to take everything to God in prayer.
But looking at the Scripture, the first verse is the last verse of Jonah 1 and the next verse is the first verse of Jonah 2. Have you ever had anyone in a Sunday school class ask about the timing of these two verses?
Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and however it was that he stayed alive inside this fish, he was there for three days and three nights. Then, he prayed.
Remember, the concept of chapters and verses in the Bible is a fairly new concept in the Christian Bible. In 1205, two different Catholic cardinals divided the Bible into chapters. The division of chapters done by Cardinal Stephen Langton is the one used today. But as for verses, the person credited with dividing the chapters into verses is Robert Estienne in the 16th century, only about 450 years ago.
In bringing that up, the author may have wanted these verses to be read one after the other, but can we expect Jonah to sit in the fish and pout for three days and then ask God for help?
Okay understanding the story of Jonah and how he did not want God to be merciful toward the people of Nineveh, he might have done so – pouted for three solid days. I think I would be praying, earnestly, before the ship’s crew tossed me into the sea, long before the fish swallowed me. In fact, being swallowed by a fish would have been an answer to the prayer, “Lord, do not let me drown!”
I do not think we can take the sequence of verses to mean a timeline sequence of events. His prayer of Jonah 2 is probably the highlights, condensed version, of the fervent prayers that he was doing for three days. After all, who else would Jonah talk to? I doubt if he had any television or radio reception in the fish. I doubt if he could pick up a cellphone signal. I seriously doubt if the fish would allow him to light a fire so that Jonah could read Scripture.
Okay, enough silliness, but for a man of God in that situation, there would be a whole lot more praying than sleeping and not much of anything else.
And that brings us back to us. We should not wait until we are in the belly of a fish that is doing a deep dive to the bottom of the sea before we start praying. As the car driver suggests, we should be so used to talking to God that it is like talking to a friend, maybe more so.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.