Hear Our Prayers, O Lord
Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His
burning anger so that we will not perish? Jonah 3:9 NASB
God is sovereign. Many scriptures tell us that God does not
change His mind (see Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, and Ezekiel 24:14). Because
God does what He wills, we may think, Why should he listen to me? What
difference does my puny prayer make?
But God has promised to hear us when we pray, and He does
sometimes soften in answer to our prayers. When you think of Jonah, you may
immediately think of a whale or big fish. I think of a reluctant prophet
fleeing from God. But God brings him back by way of a whale that spit him out
right onto the beach where he was supposed to be.
it’s not Jonah’s great prayer that I want you to consider—in fact,
Jonah didn’t pray for Nineveh at all. He hated these people who had
instilled terror in their enemies with dreadful, cruel acts of
gave the prophecy that God told him to give—to about one-third
city on the first day(Jonah 3:3-4). Those who heard, including the king, responded to
In spite of Jonah’s reluctance, the dreadful, cruel people
of Nineveh prayed, and God delayed His judgment. The Ninevites “believed in God;
and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of
them” (Jonah 3:5 NASB). The sackcloth was a sign of repentance.
king issued a royal decree: "Do not let man, beast,
herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water”
(Jonah 3:7 NASB). He commanded them to pray earnestly and turn from
their wicked ways and from violence (3:8-9).
Amazingly, God heard their prayers and accepted their repentance.
“Then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring
upon them." (Jonah 3:10 NASB) The dictionary defines
“relent” as “to become softened or gentler in attitude, temper or
determination.” The Hebrew word translated here as “relent” most often is
translated as “comfort or have compassion.”
Can our prayers influence God? Repent, pray, believe,
fast—wait to see what He will do!
Jonah 4. How did God give Jonah a lesson in compassion? The story is
open-ended. Do you think Jonah repented? Who recorded the story?
- Read Exodus 32:1-14. What caused God's anger to burn and what in Moses' prayer softened God's anger?
Nahum 1:1-3, 2:8, and 3:7. Although 120,000 people repented during
Jonah's time, later generations of Ninevites returned to their evil
ways. They were conquered by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 BC.
Nahum, another prophet, records the details of God's judgment on that
generation of Ninevites.
Nancy J. Baker
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