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Summary: Jonah’s prayer teaches to pray the Psalms in times of trouble. It also teaches us about God’s deliveramce.

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Jonah 2

Praying in the Belly of a Fish

Three ministers were talking about prayer in general and the appropriate and effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman was working on the phone system in the background. One minister shared that he felt the key was in the hands. He always held his hands together and pointed them upward as a form of symbolic worship. The second suggested that real prayer was conducted on your knees. The third suggested that they both had it wrong--the only position worth its salt was to pray while stretched out flat on your face.

By this time the phone man couldn’t stay out of the conversation any longer. He interjected, "I found that the most powerful prayer I ever made was while I was dangling upside down by my heels from a power pole, suspended forty feet above the ground."

I think that the most powerful prayer that Jonah ever prayed was in the belly of a fish.

How did he get there?

Jonah was a prophet of God, and God came to him one day and said “go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah saw the command as a death sentence because Nineveh was so evil and powerful, so he ran as far as he could away from Nineveh. He hoped a boat to Tarshish which was probably in Spain. He himself said that he was running from God. But God ran after him and sent a huge storm that threatened to rip the boat apart. When the Sailors discover that the storm has come because of Jonah, they ask him what they should do, and he says, “Throw me overboard.” They don’t weant to, but the storm is so great that they throw Jonah overboard into the raging sea. And the storm stops and the sea becomes calm. The sailors are safe. But Jonah is not! He is sinking to the depths of the sea, about to expire. But God sends a fish that swallows him and saves him from death.

Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. And while he is there he prays.

He prays the Psalms.

Everything that Jonah prays has reference in the psalms

Look at verse 2 and listen to Psalm 18:4-6

4 The cords of death entangled me;

the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

5 The cords of the grave [2] coiled around me;

the snares of death confronted me.

6 In my distress I called to the Lord ;

I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice;

my cry came before him, into his ears

Look at verse 3 and listen to Psalm 42:7

7 Deep calls to deep

in the roar of your waterfalls;

all your waves and breakers

have swept over me.

Look at verse 4 and listen to Psalm 31:22

22 In my alarm I said,

"I am cut off from your sight!"

Yet you heard my cry for mercy

when I called to you for help.

You could do the same thing with each of these verses in Chapter 2. The reason that Jonah prays the Psalms is that he knew them. The psalms were the prayer book of the Jewish people – and they continue to be. Jonah would have prayed and sang the psalms from an early age. When you are in the belly of the fish, you don’t have much mental energy to make up your own prayers, so you go with what you know. Jonah knew the psalms.


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Anonymous

commented on Mar 9, 2012

Sorry, but it seems Mr. Wilkins forgot to mention that he is not the originator of this sermon. According to the "Desiring God" website (see http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/cry-of-distress-and-voice-of-thanks), it is a sermon of John Piper.

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