Devotional for Wednesday, April 22
Jonah 2:1-4 (NLT)
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said,
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ “
Yesterday, we considered the overall theme of Jonah’s story. Let’s stay with the reluctant prophet today. His prayer from deep beneath the waters, in the belly of a great sea creature, may remind us a little of what we’re experiencing now.
I feel like I want to come up for air. I want what I think of as normal to return. And yes, I want to look once more toward our holy sanctuary, with all of you in it. I thank God for the technology allowing us to gather online, but it’s just not the same.
You might want to take time to read the rest of the prayer in Jonah 2. Jonah, flawed as he was, prayed the way we need to pray.
First, Jonah remembered the Lord, and his prayer went out in earnest.
There’s praying, and then there’s praying like you really mean it. We’re talking about that kind of prayer where we sense just how fully dependent on God we are.
I do not think of COVID-19 as a good thing, but God can work much good through what is very bad. As part of a culture where the majority of people have a false sense of control, it is good when we are reminded how dependent we are. That reality check helps us to “remember the Lord.”
Who knows, this experience might trigger some sort of national awakening to God’s presence. And I don’t mean the rise of a political movement paying lip service to God. I’m talking about real change, the kind of transformation that can be seen on people’s faces and in their behaviors.
Second, Jonah used his prayer to recommit himself to his religious practices and his vows, recognizing, “My salvation comes from the Lord alone.”
As Christians, we have a refined sense of what he meant, thanks to being born after the Christ event. God does not want any of us left in the belly of death. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, and we are thrown clear of death’s grip.
Let’s recommit ourselves to living out the truth we declare. In whatever ways we are able, let’s gather and glorify God as we celebrate the greatest gift ever given to the world. Let’s remember our baptismal vows, and our vows to support the Christian community through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness.
As the prayer ends in Jonah 2, we are told the Lord ordered the creature to spit the prophet onto the beach. It is debatable how much Jonah’s heart was transformed as he returned to his calling. Reading the rest of the story, we see he at best grudgingly obeyed. But he did obey, survive and succeed in his mission.
We can do much better, I expect!
Lord, as we pray in earnest and recommit ourselves to you, may we also find a renewed joy in all that we do. We know from where our salvation comes, and we rejoice in the eternal life we are given. Amen.