Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Belly of the Fish as a House of Prayer

I'm preaching today at a local nursing home on Jonah chapter 2 (I also preached this message last Sunday night at my local church). Here's part one of this message, I hope to post part 2 next week.

What Jonah Learned About Prayer in the Belly of the Fish

Opening: I want to focus in on what Jonah learned about prayer when he was tossed overboard into the sea and swallowed by the great fish that the Lord provided. Read Jonah 2:1-10. The first thing Jonah learned about prayer was that…

1. No matter where we are God hears our prayers.

Read Jonah 2:2. The Lord heard Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the great fish under the sea. Jonah thought he was getting away from the Lord. (cf. 1:3). Imagine his surprise to find out God could hear him from inside the fish?

A monk (Cassiodorus) from the 5th Century said this about Jonah’s predicament (being in the belly of a great fish). “The great fish was a house of prayer for the prophet, a harbor fro him when shipwrecked, a home amid the waves, a happy resource at a desperate time. He was not swallowed for sustenance but to gain rest.”

I wonder how many times we end up in the belly of a fish, a bad place, but a place that has potential to become a house of prayer if we let it but we don’t realize it? Our house of prayer could be a hospital bed. A wheel chair. An empty room. A waiting room. A long car ride alone. Jonah’s situation, being in the fish’s belly, teaches us that all of these places can become a house of prayer if we let them. Are we willing to let them? The secret is that no matter where we are, our prayers reach God’s ears.

I’m reminded of the children of Israel and their captivity in slavery to the Egyptians. In Exodus 2:23-25 it talks about them praying and God hearing their prayers. The next chapter in Exodus is about God calling Moses from the burning bush. God hears our prayers. There are Christians right now, around the world, which are in dungeons, holes in the ground, and prisons, whose prayers are being heard by God.

A Roman senator (Paulinus of Nola) and Christian poet who lived during the 4th Century wrote this about Jonah’s time in the fish, “His body was constrained by the great body of the fish, but the bonds of earth did not constrain the flight of his mind. Though enclosed in that belly, he broke out of his prison by prayer and reached God’s ears.”

Some places (like my church’s prayer room) can be better suited for prayer, but the truth of the matter is God can hear us anywhere.

The Early Christians (Acts 2:42d) understood you could be heard by God anywhere. They were no doubt familiar with the story of Israel in captivity and how God heard His people's prayers and the story of Jonah's prayer from inside the fish. I love the story in Acts 16. Re-cap some of the events leading up to this story. Paul and Silas are thrown into the inner cell of prison and what do we find them doing in verse 25? Praying. We know God heard their prayers because there was an earthquake and a jailbreak.

God hears us anywhere we are. Do not forget that. If you do, go and read Jonah 2:1-10.

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