The Aquatic Prayer of Jonah 2
Nothing improves a person's prayer life better than getting swallowed by a great fish. Jonah is witness to this biblical truth.
With what one writer calls "intuitive perfection," Jonah crafts an artistic, even stunning prayer of thanksgiving. With a deep memory of the Psalms, Jonah writes his own, drawing on words and phrases from "the prayer book of Israel." I imagine this was quite challenging as he was being churned in the stomach of a large grupper and marinating in fishy, digestive juices. My heart goes out to Jonah because I have a hard time praying in a decent, comfortable room. Maybe I need to use the Jonah method of prayer.
The Prayer of Jonah. It has a faint, familiar ring to it. I can't quite put my finger on it. What is it? Do you think "The Prayer of Jonah" and its unusual Sitz im Leben* would make a really marketable little book?
Just as Yahweh--the God of Israel--is the real hero of chapter 1, so Yahweh captivates Jonah's mind as he shapes his prayer in chapter 2. Feel the impact of his resounding conclusion: "Salvation comes from the LORD!" Jonah doesn't just know this truth, he incarnates it. Jonah compresses the glorious, central message of the Bible into five English words (just two in the Hebrew).
Jonah, by his own admission, was snatched from the jaws of a watery death. On the verge of unconsciousness, Jonah prayed. Yahweh heard. Thinking that he would die from seaweed wrapped around his throat, he gets swallowed by a God-appointed fish. In the dark, slippery folds of the fish's gut Jonah begins to faint away. Perhaps the last conscious thought of this rebellious prophet was "Help!!" Yahweh helped him. God talks to the fish (2:10) and, blurp!, Jonah is deposited on dry land. Terra firma never felt so good to him, having been to hell (well, Sheol) and back.
Did Jonah first scrawl out his thanksgiving prayer in the sand on the beach near Joppa? Who knows? We do know there was one happy prophet with a whole new appreciation for God recuperating on the Mediterranean coast.
Pagan sailors cried out to God for help in chapter 1. A rebellious Jewish prophet called for help in chapter 2. Yahweh heard both. Human need and honest prayer get the attention and response of the God of the Bible. Yahweh is no respecter of persons.
Liberated from the fish's "bowels of mercy," Jonah wonders about Nineveh.
*Sitz im Leben means "setting in life."