Summary: What stops you from praying? Are you too proud to pray? Are you trying to find your own solution? Don't wait to pray - God is listening now.
I always start my sermons with a question:
My question for you this evening is
When do you pray?
In the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to pray without ceasing or as the NLT translates it Never stop praying
I wonder how many of us do that?
If we take that verse in context we are to Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
We may pray when we really want to thank God for something.
But there are times when perhaps we do stop praying.
Or perhaps we pray simply because we think we are supposed to, but somehow, our heart just is not in the prayer.
If we are honest, most of us are more likely to pray when circumstances are difficult, or
when situations arise in our lives or the lives of others that we want God to intervene in.
Some people will only pray when they are desperate.
Have you ever been in a desperate situation where praying to God was the only answer?
Do you ever pray SOS prayers?
Lord help me, Lord save me, Lord I need you now!
When Peter walked on the water and began to sink beneath the waves, he said a very short prayer he simply said: “Lord, save me.” Matt. 14:30
That was a desperate prayer wasn’t it.
Tonight I want us to think about a powerful prayer in a desperate place.
And we are going to do that by considering what happened to the prophet Jonah.
Jonah 1:17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish
Now that’s a desperate prayer in a desperate place.
So, why was Jonah in the fish’s belly?
He was there because the fish swallowed him!
But we need to go back a little further to find out why the fish swallowed him.
Jonah was inside of a fish because of Jonah’s original response to God’s command.
He did not like the idea of doing what God wanted, despite the fact that he was a prophet, and prophets were supposed to do what God asked them to do.
Jonah had decided to choose his own way and ignore God’s request.
In fact, it seems the fish was more obedient to the will of God than Jonah was.
God arranged for the fish to swallow Jonah.
It did not just happen to be there.
It was directed and positioned by God to be in the right place at the right time.
Lets get theological for a moment.
There are two theological viewpoints about the book of Jonah.
The first is that the story of Jonah is not a historical event, it is viewed as an allegory or a parable.
The second is that Jonah is a historical book stating a factual event that occurred to an actual person.
I believe that the second viewpoint is true.
That this was a real event in a real persons life.
But I can understand why there would be some theological people who would want to distance themselves from the facts in the book of Jonah.
Could a man really survive in the belly of a fish for three days?
I believe if God wanted him to he could.
I believe in a miracle working God.
I believe in the God of the impossible.
And I hope you do too.
God arranged for the fish to swallow Jonah
and God, in a miraculous way,
arranged for Jonah to stay alive inside the fish too.
I don’t know what kind of fish it was.
I don’t know what it looked like.
I don’t know if God created a special fish for this one time use,
or if he used an existing fish and somehow equipped it for the purpose of keeping Jonah alive for three days.
But what I do know is that Jesus believed it actually happened.
In fact, Jesus picked this story as a sign to confirm who He was, in one of the greatest miracles in the Bible.
Matthew 12:38-41 says:
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”
39But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.