April 26 I Tuesday
2 Samuel 23-24
“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.” —Jonah 2:1
What could we learn from Jonah about prayer? He was running away from God’s call and got on a boat heading the opposite direction. God sent a violent storm, where sailors on the boat who were not even worshippers of Yahweh were crying out to Him. To stop the storm, Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard, but instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed up by a big fish.
In the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed. We may say, “It’s the old cliché: just pray and everything will be alright.” We probably imagine Jonah praying something along the lines of, “God, get me out of here! I can’t handle the stench! Will You please get me out? Where are You, God?” Jonah may have said that kind of prayer, but Scripture recorded what he actually prayed in Jonah 2:2-9. As we examine Jonah’s prayer, we will find that every single sentence in Jonah’s prayer comes from somewhere in the book of Psalms. He did not quote a particular psalm, but he fashioned his prayer out of other prayers in Scripture.
Eugene Peterson explains, “If we want to pray our true condition, our total selves in response to the living God, expressing our feelings isn’t enough—we need a long apprenticeship in prayer…Jonah in his prayer shows himself to have been a diligent student in the school of Psalms. His prayer is kicked off by his plight, but it is not reduced to it. His prayer took him into a world far larger than his immediate experience…to the largeness of the God with whom he was dealing. This contrasts with the prevailing climate of prayer. Our culture presents us with forms of prayer that are mostly self-expression…prayer dominated by a sense of self. But prayer, mature prayer, is dominated by a sense of God. Prayer rescues us from a preoccupation with ourselves and pulls us into adoration of and pilgrimage to God.”
Jonah’s prayer was rooted in and shaped by a familiarity with and meditation upon Scripture. For those of us who are not well-trained in liturgy, how can we pray like Jonah? Begin by opening the Bible to Psalm 1 and pray it out loud. On the next day, do the same with Psalm 2, and the day after, Psalm 3. In 150 days, we would have filled ourselves with praying Scripture daily. But what do we do after 150 days? We begin with Psalm 1 again. As we do this every day, we will experience Scripture fueling our prayer life.
Prayer: Dear Lord God, grow in me a desire to read Your Word daily. Hide Your Word in my heart so that my prayers focus on Your truth and not myself. Thank You, Lord.