Bible Society of South Africa
Gerhard Lindeque

Pentecost – Day 3 (27 June)

God’s Spirit leads us to pray

Bible text(s)

17At the LORD's command a large fish swallowed Jonah, and he was inside the fish for three days and nights.

Jonah's Prayer

1From deep inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God:

2“In my distress, O LORD, I called to you,

and you answered me.

From deep in the world of the dead

I cried for help, and you heard me.

3You threw me down into the depths,

to the very bottom of the sea,

where the waters were all round me,

and all your mighty waves rolled over me.

4I thought I had been banished from your presence

and would never see your holy Temple again.

5The water came over me and choked me;

the sea covered me completely,

and seaweed was wrapped round my head.

6I went down to the very roots of the mountains,

into the land whose gates lock shut for ever.

But you, O LORD my God,

brought me back from the depths alive.

7When I felt my life slipping away,

then, O LORD, I prayed to you,

and in your holy Temple you heard me.

8Those who worship worthless idols

have abandoned their loyalty to you.

9But I will sing praises to you;

I will offer you a sacrifice

and do what I have promised.

Salvation comes from the LORD!”

10Then the LORD ordered the fish to spew Jonah up on the beach, and it did.

Jonah 1:17-2:10GNBOpen in Bible reader

It is a sad truth, but we mainly pray in times of trouble and disaster. We often realise our dependence on God when we are in distress. I personally experienced this again when I spent seven hours, in an ambulance, on my way to the hospital for an emergency operation. During this trip, quite a few scriptures from the Bible were running through my head, like this passage where Jonah cries out to God from the fish’s belly: “In my trouble I called to the LORD; I called to my God for help. In his temple he heard my voice; he listened to my cry for help” (Jonah 2:2).

The narrator of Jonah’s story paints a picture of someone who cries out to the Lord from the deepest depths and, yet, experiences the most miraculous power and presence of God, because it is not our need that teaches us to pray – it is God’s Spirit. Through his Spirit, God is present everywhere. God is always with us – he is not limited to time or space. Jonah had to learn this first. It does not help to try to run away from God. We need God in our lives. We cannot live without him.

The purpose of prayer is not to twist God’s arm to help us. Prayer is really just a confession to remind ourselves of our dependence on God. As Jonah indeed confesses: Help comes from the Lord alone. Once he realises this, the fish spits him out. In other words, it is like he is born again and given a second chance at life. The presence of God’s Spirit in our lives makes us new people who can prayerfully confess our dependence on God.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.20.15
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