Praying with Jonah

We’re listening to a series of sermons from the book of Jonah. On Sunday, we looked at chapter two. The chapter is mostly a prayer which starts after Jonah is in the fish.

There are many people who have said many things about this story.

One thread of conversations is about whether this happened, how a fish could swallow someone, whether a whole city could repent and the extra-biblical historical record be limited.

Another thread of conversations is about whether this prayer was written in the fish or whether it was actually written later, reflecting what Jonah (or whoever is writing this account) actually meant by a desperate prayer best summarized as “help!”

Another thread of conversations is about the sources of the language in the prayer, talking about how it draws from many places in Psalms and reflects a deep familiarity with the prayers and songs of Israel.

I was thinking through these conversations on Tuesday morning. And I decided to read the chapter out loud. I do that from time to time. I suggest it to others. Oral reading allows us to hear the words with breath, at a pace that matches our heartbeat, with inflection that connects us back to the first people to hear these words, to pass them on. And, I thought, if this is a prayer that Jonah was praying, it was likely out loud.

As I read the words about the chaos that Jonah was in, I started thinking about some of the chaos my heart feels lost in. As I read about being banished from God’s presence but looking again toward Him, I thought about the running away and turning back that I’ve done.

And as I read Jonah’s words about finally remembering to pray in dark places, I, too, remembered to pray.


 Lent starts with Ash Wednesday on February 18. I know that’s a long time from now. But last year I published a Lenten reader and the paper version takes a little while to ship. You can learn more at Lent for Non-Lent People.