What goes through your mind after you’re swallowed by a fish? For Jonah, it was exactly what was needed to get his attention. After running from God, enduring a massive storm at sea, and being tossed overboard to drown, Jonah found himself “at peace” in the stomach of a “great fish.” What happened next? God’s word and God’s presence, both of which Jonah fled from at the beginning of his story, came flooding back in and through him. The second chapter of Jonah records his prayer.
A beautiful feature of Jonah’s prayer is the parallel with the book of Psalms, the Ancient Hebrew prayer and worship book. As Jonah turned back to God, the word of God exploded again within his soul. Jonah’s prayer isn’t simply desperate, authentic, and transparent, it’s biblical. Here are some of the parallels:
“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,and he answered me;
Psalm 3:4, “I cried to the the LORD and he answered me from his holy hill.
Psalm 120:1, “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me,”
“out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”
Psalm 118:5, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.”
“For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.”
Psalm 42:7, “…all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”
Psalm 88:6-7, “You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelmed me with all your waves.”
“Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’
Psalm 31:22, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.”
“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.”
Psalm 31:6, “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,”
“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
Psalm 50:14, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High
Psalm 3:8, “Salvation belongs to the LORD,”
You can imagine Jonah being thankful for the Sunday school teacher or parent who forced him to memorize those texts. As he awakened in the belly of the fish his heart and mind were flooded with the truth of God’s word. As he prayed to God, he wasn’t calling out to a distant Deity whose identity and character were a mystery, but to a personal God whose love and grace were real in his life. Jonah’s faith sprung from his knowledge of God’s word, and in the moment of his greatest need that reality was his greatest peace.