In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. Jonah 2:2-3 (NIV).
Jonah spent 3 days inside a stinky, oily, slimy fish. We had salmon patties for dinner last night, and smelling the can of salmon when it was opened made me think that this was how Jonah smelled after just a few minutes inside the fish. Imagine how he reeked after three days. He probably smelled so bad that he couldn’t even smell himself anymore.
During those three days, he prayed. He probably prayed psalms, which would have been known to him because they would have been written several hundred years before he lived. The psalms were hymns sung during worship; they still are in many churches. And the psalms were both poetry and hymn; song and spoken word.
What the psalms are most, however, is heartfelt worship. Some of them – like the ones paraphrased in these verse – are cries from desperate people. People who have nowhere else to go and realize how wrong their sins were. “In my distress” is prayed by a person who knows they are in a bad way; a person who sees their situation as desperate because they believe they are going to die. Wouldn’t you or I feel the same way if some giant fish swallowed us whole?
…and yet, don’t gloss over the next part of the prayer, namely where the man said ‘and the Lord answered me.’ Even when he believed he was in the realm of the dead, even when he was desperate, even when he was in a bad way, in distress, and deep in his sins with nowhere else to go, the man inside the fish prayed and knew that God had listened to him. Even as he was in the pitch-black innards of a fish swimming in the deep sea.
Knowing all that, do you think God hears us when we say a quick prayer in the car? Or at the dinner table? Or in the shower, at our desks, sitting in the recliner, on the sidelines at our kid’s ballgame? Do you think God hears us on the rare occasions we actually hit our knees? The fact is, God hears ALL of our prayers. And He answers them, even if we don’t always understand the answers.
If a man stuck in a fish can pray, what’s stopping us?
For further reading: 2 Samuel 22:5, Psalm 18:6, Psalm 42:7, Psalm 86:13, Psalm 120:1, Lamentations 3:55, Jonah 2:4
Hearing Lord, hear my prayer. I’m a sinner and I really need You today! Forgive my sins against You.
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