Journey with Jonah – #4

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish….” (Jonah 2:1)

JonahPeople have prayed in many strange places, but none stranger than the belly of a great fish. The mind boggles. Yet, once Jonah quit running from God, the sailors tossed him overboard and a great fish (appointed by God) swallowed him. Then he started to look to God. Jonah prayed.

Many people turn to God in times of crisis. But what do they say? How do you pray when words fail you?

Today a dear friend let me know about the passing of his father-in-law this morning. He emailed me these words:

“He was two weeks short of 95. We were with him yesterday afternoon, and in the evening more family joined together to say goodbyes. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer and some psalms and said a blessing over him. My wife was alone with him this morning when he passed. He will be missed, but leaves a legacy of quiet, steady, and unassuming faithfulness. We think of psalm 116. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.”

Kevin has continued a long tradition, all the way back to Jonah and beyond.

As Jonah languished for three days and nights in the dark belly of that over-sized fish, he prayed. He prayed … the Psalms.

In the mere 8 verses which record his prayer, he recites phrases from Psalms 3, 5, 16, 18, 22, 30, 31, 42, 50, 69, 77, 116, 120, 142, and 143. When his own words failed him, he utilized the prayers of Scripture to express his anguish, distress, repentance, faith, and hope.

So many followers of Jesus begin their Bible with the Gospels. Yet, the classroom of prayer sits in the middle of our Bibles, with 150 lessons we call the Psalms.

Benedictine monks read these Psalms — all of them — each month. In doing so, they learn a different language; a language marked by both raw feeling and faith; a language filled with both emotion and reason; a language that gives voice to the deepest cries of the human heart and the highest aspirations of the human spirit.

Jonah prayed the Psalms.

He turned his face again to the Lord, and repeated words which the Lord Himself had inspired. And as he cobbled together the words and phrases from centuries past, his soul drew a single conclusion: “Salvation is from the Lord.” (2:9)

How are your prayers? Shallow? Hollow? Empty? Short?

In sadness and sorrow, in joy and in delight, the Psalms have consistently shaped the souls of God’s people.

As Kevin and his family find solace and hope through this inspired poetry this week, perhaps some of us would benefit from a stint in the classroom, too.

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6 Responses to Journey with Jonah – #4

  1. Truda says:

    Wonderful reminder of the value of the Psalms in life and daily prayer, David.

  2. Janet Sigsworth says:

    Hi David, about two years ago a friend suggested to a group of us that we begin to memorize Scripture and I began in the Psalms. I don’t rush it, try to get a few verses into my head and heart a week and now have about 7 Psalms tucked away in my memory. I had no idea what an impact these beautiful verses would have on me. I pray them back to God, use them as spiritual warfare, reassure myself of His faithfulness by repeating them to myself and find so many things to give thanks for tucked away in these verses. The Psalms are life transforming when we make them a part of our intimacy with God and the rewards far, far outweigh the effort. Thanks for the encouragement to stay in God’s Word. (Btw, I don’t have a naturally good memory so it does mean some considerable repetition.)

    • David Timms says:

      Janet, how delightful to hear about this experience in the Psalms (and commitment to the Psalms). Which seven have you “tucked away” and found so meaningful? 🙂

      • Janet Sigsworth says:

        Ok so I began with Psalm 46 which reminds me of God’s sovereignty, then I moved onto Ps. 117 which is a useful praise prayer when I don’t have much time. From there I went to Ps. 16 which comforts me. The next one was Ps. 103 which I love to pray back to the Lord thanking Him for all His benefits. Ps. 23 came next, no explanation needed 🙂 Ps. 19 was next reminding me of God’s glory being constantly declared all over the earth and now I’m in Ps. 37 which I’m finding comforting in these days of such opposition to the things of God. Each one serves to remind me of a different aspect of God’s character and as I memorize and ponder the meaning of each verse they become living water to my soul. It’s an exciting adventure!

  3. David Timms says:

    Janet, that sounds terrific — though Ps. 37 is a long one to memorize! I might join you. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.

    • Janet Sigsworth says:

      Yes David, please join me! It is a long one but there’s no rush, one verse at a time. Good practice for Ps. 119!!!

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