Study 10 THE PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE FROM TROUBLE
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Jonah 2: 1-9
The key verse to this concluding study in our series is Jonah 2:1. In chapter 1 we read the sad record of the prophet’s disobedience and doubt, and of the consequent trouble that befell him. It was after this, and only when he was in real trouble, that he prayed. We all experience trouble, and the fact that we are Christians does not give us any immunity from trouble. Indeed, the fact that we are Christians ensures trouble, as we learn from Philippians 1:29; Hebrews 12:5-12; 1 Peter 1:7. But sometimes trouble comes upon us because of our own foolishness and sin. This was so in the case of Jonah. The story is moving and heart-breaking, but also challenging and very practical in its application to us. Notice first of all:-
1. Jonah’s great trouble
Read through chapter 1 carefully and notice how Jonah’s trouble increased with mounting intensity, until in chapter 2 we find him giving his testimony about his trouble and the Lord’s gracious deliverance. Concerning his trouble notice:-
- (1) The nature of it. We read about this in Jonah 1:15 and 17. This man was cast into the sea and was then swallowed by a fish. He was surely in great trouble, and notice this in three ways: First, he was in trouble physically - his body was affected (Jonah 2:2); second, he was in trouble mentally - his mind must have reeled at the very thought of his predicament (Jonah 2:6); and third, he was in trouble spiritually - for he was out of touch with God (Jonah 2:4). How does your trouble compare with Jonah’s?
- (2) The intensity of it. It was very severe indeed, as we learn from verse 2, ”my distress”; and in verse 2 again, “from the depths of the grave”; verse 3, ”the currents swirled about me …swept over me …”; and in verse 7, “my life was ebbing away”. This was no ordinary trial. It was an overwhelming one. How does your trouble compare with this in its severity? But what was the reason for Jonah’s trouble?
- (3) The reason for it. Jonah had disobeyed and distrusted God, and in this he had committed a grievous sin against the Lord. This was the reason for and the cause of Jonah’s trouble. God’s sovereignty and activity are very clearly brought out in this prophecy. Notice what ”the Lord” did - in Jonah 1:1-3, and 4 and 17. Notice also that in Jonah 2:3 he attributes the storm, the waves and the trial to the Lord. God had brought about this great trial as a chastening, as His loving and sanctifying purpose to break His servant’s self-will and stubborn disobedience. The Lord has done this in love.
If you are in trouble, it does not follow that this is due to deliberate disobedience or distrust; but it could be so, and only you know whether it is so. Is God’s hand heavy upon you because of some wilful disobedience? If so, what should you or any other Christian do in a time of trouble? We should do what Jonah did.
2. Jonah’s urgent prayer
It is important to compare Jonah 1:17 with Jonah 2:1. How urgent this man’s prayer was! - and he only made his prayer to the Lord when he was really in a tight fix. Look up and read Psalm 107 and particularly notice verses 6,13,19,20, and then the closing verse, verse 43. Concerning Jonah’s prayer notice:-
- (1) The place of his praying. We get this in Jonah 2:1. What a strange prayer-chamber! Daniel prayed in his house (Daniel 6:10); Peter prayed on the rooftop (Acts 10:9); Lydia prayed by the riverside (Acts 16:13); Paul prayed in prison (Philippians 1:4); Jesus prayed on the mountain top (Luke 6:12); but Jonah - he prayed from the inside of a fish! This reminds us that we can pray anywhere and in any time of trouble.
- (2) The faith in his praying. Here is something important. Jonah was God’s servant, in spite of the fact that he was disobedient. He knew that the Lord would hear his prayer if it was offered sincerely, penitently, with confession and in faith. His prayer was God-directed (Jonah 2:1); it was offered in faith (Jonah 2:4); it was offered in the light of what God was going to do for him (Jonah 2:9). When Jonah prayed he rejoiced in the fact that ”Salvation comes from the Lord”. He had faith to believe that He could and would save him from his trouble. All appearances were against him and he was still in the fish, but God would get him out!
- (3) The answer to his praying. We get this in Jonah 2:10. What a great answer it was! - immediate, dramatic and miraculous! God is very gracious, in spite of our disobedience (Jonah 4:2), and compare Psalm 145:8-9. But most of all God’s grace and graciousness are seen in the next point.
3. Jonah’s second chance
What wonderful words are recorded in Jonah 3:1! He was given a second chance after his disobedience; so was Peter after his denial (John 21:15-17); Thomas after his doubt (John 20:24-29); John Mark after his desertion (2 Timothy 4:11). There is a second chance for you if you will come back to the Lord in penitence and faith. What do we see about Jonah’s second chance?
- (1) It was unexpected. It was certainly more than he could have hoped for. He believed God would deliver him but he could not have expected that God would recommission him.
- (2) It was undeserved. How completely undeserved it was for Jonah; and how completely undeserving we are of the Lord’s gracious dealings with us!
- (3) It was unequivocal. There was no doubt about it. It seemed too good to be true, but it was true!
So Jonah got out of his trouble; and if your trouble has come upon you because of disobedience and distrust you may get out of your trouble and back into the plan and purpose of God for your life if you will turn to Him with all your heart - look up and compare 2 Chronicles 30:9 and Joel 2:12-13.