Jonah’s Prayer

The Voice of Thanksgiving

But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. What I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD. Jonah 2:9 (NASB)

Jonah wasn’t a model prophet. In fact, the theme of every sermon I’ve heard about him was “don’t be like Jonah.” And that’s understandable because Jonah was stubborn, disobedient, and judgmental. However, Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2 is worthy of imitation. We can all learn from his honest communication with God.

Jonah wasn’t sitting among a crowd of friends around a table laden with food when he offered up his prayer of thanksgiving. He was sloshing about in a great fish’s stomach. Perhaps if I spent three days in a New York City sewage pipe, I might begin to understand how unbearable his situation was.

Jonah’s prayer is a model for us in several ways. First, Jonah explained the depth of his misery.  He described the terror of drowning, engulfed by waves and darkness (v. 5-6). He felt banished from God’s sight (v. 4). He also confessed that he was responsible for his predicament (v. 8). That kind of transparency before God is the first step toward deliverance.

Secondly, Jonah filled his prayer with Scripture. He selected phrases from 14 different psalms as well as the words of other prophets. Quoting those passages reminded him that God was merciful. God had every right to abandon His wayward prophet, “yet” Jonah said, “I will look again to your holy temple”—the place of atonement and forgiveness (v. 4).

Both Jonah’s misery and his memory prompted him to worship God. The Hebrew word for “salvation” in verse 9 is yeshuwa, which is also translated deliverance, welfare, safety, or victory.* Jonah didn’t know whether he would live or die, but his words reflect his confidence that God had forgiven him.

Are you sloshing about in difficult circumstances this week? Perhaps, like Jonah, you recognize that your present misery was caused by your own foolishness. Or maybe, like David, who Jonah quoted in verse 3, other people have created the currents of conflicts that swirl about you (see Psalm 18:4-6, 16-17).

Whatever the cause, the solution is the same: serve up a prayer of thanksgiving to the LORD. Do not forfeit the grace that God provides daily at His table for all those who humbly acknowledge, “Salvation comes from the LORD.”

DIG DEEPER:

Use the cross-references in your Bible to look up some of the passages Jonah quoted in his prayer. Memorize at least one of those verses so that you’ll be able to recall its truths in stressful situations.

Some people think Jonah is a fictional character. Read what Jesus said about Jonah in Matthew 12:38-41 and 16:1-4. Do Jesus’ words indicate that Jonah and his experience with the great fish was fiction or history?

Exodus 15:1-18 and 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 are both songs of thanksgiving. What characteristics of those songs can you incorporate into your prayers this week?

Samson wasn’t a model judge. Compare his prayer in Judges 16:28-30 with Jonah’s prayer. What similarities and differences do you see? Which prayer do you think was more pleasing to God?

Denise K. Loock

*All Hebrew and Greek transliterations and their definitions are taken from the lexicons provided by www.blueletterbible.org.

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