Summary: Description – The fourth message in the 2010 Lenten series

(Slide 1) This morning I begin with a desire to hear from you. In a moment, I am going to ask you a series of questions and all that I want you to do is to do is raise your hands to “yes” or “no” ask I them, ok? Ready? Here we go!

(1A)Question 1: Did you pray last week? Yes No

(1B)Question 2: Did you pray out loud last week? Yes No

(1C)Question 3: Did you pray with someone else last week? Yes No

(1D)Question 4: Did you pray when things were going well last week?

Yes No

(1E)Question 5: Did you pray when things were going bad last week?

Yes No

(Slide 2)

Question 6: Did you pray instead of getting angry? Yes No

(2A)Question 7: Did you pray instead of gossiping? Yes No

(2B)Question 8: Did you pray when you were up to your eyeballs in stress? Yes No

(2C) Question 9: Did you pray in a panic situation? Yes No

(Slide 3)

Bonus question: Have you ever prayed from/in the belly of a great fish? Yes No

You have. I have. We all have… prayed from/in the belly of a great fish.

Praying from the belly of a great fish is praying out of up to your eyeballs stress moments, in a panic situation, when anger is breathing down your neck, and when the temptation to gossip about someone for your own gratification challenges the thought of praying from them instead.

Here is our main text for this morning…

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the world of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. How will I ever again see your holy Temple?’

“I sank beneath the waves, and death was very near. The waters closed in around me, and seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was locked out of life and imprisoned in the land of the dead. But you, O Lord my God, have snatched me from the yawning jaws of death!

“When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”

Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit up Jonah on the beach, and it did.” (NLT)

(Slide 4) Reed Lessing tells the story of a Native American ritual for training young braves:

On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, he was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then he had never been away from the security of his family and tribe. But on this night he was blindfolded and taken miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of thick woods. By himself. All night long. Terrifying! How out of his element the young brave must have felt. How very un-BRAVE, in fact.

Every time a twig snapped, he probably visualized a wild animal ready to pounce.

Every time an animal howled, he imagined a wolf leaping out of the darkness.

Every time the wind blew, he wondered what more sinister sound it masked.

No doubt it was a terrifying night for many.

After what must have seemed like an eternity, the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was the boy’s father. He had been there all night long. It is a lesson in bravery ... in independence. But it is an important lesson in DEPENDENCE as well. Tribe and family matter. You aren’t alone, even when you are most lonely.

Have you ever considered that sometimes God may put the blind fold on us, take us out into the woods, as a manner of speaking, and then leave us alone to see how we will respond?

The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, led Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days. Could not the Lord do the same to us for the purpose of helping us mature in our faith and relationship with Him?

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