Summary: Everyone believes in prayer in a crisis and that's an opportunity for us to point them to God.
AN OPEN DOOR: Everyone believes in prayer in a crisis.
- Jonah 1:6 – “The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!’”
- In the section, notice two things:
a. It’s the captain that asks Jonah to pray.
- Now, there’s no doubt that a pagan sailor captain is probably not been to Sunday School in a while. There’s a reason that sailors have a reputation for debauchery – they’ve earned it!
- And yet in this moment of crisis, even the captain is praying and demanding that Jonah pray.
b. Jonah isn’t offering to pray – the pagan captain has to ask him to do that.
- Everyone believes in prayer in a crisis, yet far too often today the church in America doesn’t show much sign of believing in the power of prayer in our daily lives.
- Jonah should have been the one bringing up prayer, but it was the pagan captain instead. We should be the ones bringing up prayer, yet too often our unsaved friends have to ask us to pray for them.
WHY IS PRAYER SO WELCOME THEN? People want prayer when they know they’re in over their heads.
- Jonah 1:6 – “Maybe . . . we will not perish.”
- The sailors were experienced enough to know that they were in trouble. This was a big storm and there was a good likelihood of the ship not making it to shore. They knew they were in over their heads.
- People are naturally drawn to prayer when they realize the situation they’re in is beyond their power:
a. The person diagnosed with cancer.
b. The parents with the out-of-control teen.
c. The man facing a layoff and no other obvious job opportunities.
d. The woman whose depression won’t go away.
- The key word for us here is “perish.” They saw this as a life-or-death situation (because it was).
- When we are in those kinds of situations, we are eager for anyone who offers to pray.
- Our desperation, our helplessness, our uncertainty put us in a difficult place. The offer of prayer in that moment has ten times (actually, probably much more) the impact that it would in a normal, everyday-life moment.
- Again and again, I have had people shed tears over me simply asking if I could pray for them because they were in a situation like this. We appreciate it more. We need it more. It touches our hearts.
HOW DOES THAT TIE INTO WITNESSING? Prayer is a way for God to reveal that He’s real.
- Jonah 1:6 – “Maybe he will take notice of us. . .”
- The key word there is “maybe.”
- Very few people would say that they are absolutely sure there is no God. Most would say they think there is probably a God out there somewhere, even if they are in no way obeying Him.
- When we offer prayer and then God comes through in answer, it’s a dramatic way for Him to show that He’s real.
- The captain is not sure that God is going to through for them, but he’s willing to try.
- One of the objections that’s likely coming to your mind is “what if God doesn’t answer the prayer?”
- That’s a good concern. It’s one of the big reasons that we don’t offer specific prayers with the expectation of specific requests: we don’t know if God will come through for us.
- I would argue, though, that even when we add in the acknowledgement that God doesn’t answer all prayers in the affirmative, we still don’t pray with expectation. We still don’t ask for something believing that God will come through.
- Maybe it’s because we doubt Him. Maybe it’s because we don’t have faith. Maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten how to pray. In any event, there are precious few Christians who pray believing that they’re going to see an answer. Further, there are even fewer who are willing to pray for other people boldly saying that they believe God is going to come through.
- Let’s stop for a second, though, and think about the fact that God has organized things in such a way that He’s included prayer as a main activity that we are to do.
- I believe it’s because it gives us a chance to see His power at work.
- It’s not that He needs opportunities to show off, but rather that He desires for us to look to Him for answers. Also, it gives Him a chance to show that He’s real and listening.
- Think about prayer as a witnessing tool:
a. The crisis presents an open door.
- We’re all the time saying that there are so many closed hearts. We long to see opportunities where someone is open to hearing about God.