Transforming Ordinary People into Extraordinary Followers of Christ

Jonah: Perplexing Prophet – Praying


Dig deeper into the message during the sermon, in your personal Bible study, or with your family or Community Group in application-driven discussion.



Jonah 2

Today we study a man at prayer. If you want to learn to pray, saturate your heart and mind with the  prayers in the Bible—and you’ll become instructed by the Spirit of God in the art of powerful praying.  Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2 breaks neatly into three parts: 

[1] The setting of Jonah’s prayer (v. 1). Jonah prayed from the stomach of the fish. Strange?  Not really—you can pray anywhere! Now, some are asking, “Could this really happen? Is there a fish  large enough to swallow a man?” Actually, it’s not the size of the fish that matters so much, as the  size of its throat. The Blue Whale is very big, but its throat can only accommodate a few fish at a time.  The smaller Sperm Whale has an expandable throat. An intact 16 foot shark has been found there.  Others will ask, “Could a person survive in the belly of a fish?” That very thing happened in 1891 on  the whale ship “Star of the East”. Boats were lowered to harpoon a whale, but a lash of the whale’s tail  crushed one of the boats and a seaman named James Bartley was lost. The whale was killed, hauled  onto the deck, and when the stomach was removed, inside was found the missing sailor, doubled up  and unconscious. Three weeks later he was fully recovered and resumed his duties. (There was  one lasting effect: Barley’s skin was bleached to a stark whiteness and took on the appearance of  parchment.) One other question is much more important than those two: “Is there a big enough God  to pull this whole thing off?” Truth is, the size of your God determines the size of your faith. When  God says something, the believing heart accepts it. The “where” was the belly of the fish; the “when”  is during Jonah’s three-day incarceration in the fish (1:17—2:2). Jonah was desperate. God brings  problems to get our attention (James 1:2–4). If you knew that for the next year you wouldn’t have a  single problem—how much would you pray? Do you pray “just as a last resort”?  

[2] The substance of Jonah’s prayer (v. 2-9). First, Jonah confessed and repented (v. 2-4). He  recognized his sinful defiance of God which led to broken fellowship (4a), but he turned toward God  (“Your holy temple”) in repentance (4b; cf. 1 John 1:9). Jonah owned up to his sin. And in this prayer  I want you to note that Jonah is confessing his sins and not someone else’s. Oh, we love to confess  other people’s sins, don’t we? God requires that we come clean on our sins. We can’t be in fellowship  with God if we are unwilling to try and reconcile a broken relationship. (cf. Matthew 5:23–24 and 6:14-15). There is nothing that will cripple and shrivel your soul like an unforgiving spirit—but in v. 6-8 we see  Jonah full of praise. Jonah was exercising “the therapy of thanksgiving”, and his depression lifted (v. 9). Repentance refers to a change of mind and a change of behavior. It involves a 180 degree turn, and  that’s just what Jonah did: God told him to go to Nineveh but he went in the exact opposite direction.  Then he repented and moved in the right direction.  

[3] The sequel to Jonah’s prayer (v. 10). How considerate—back where he started! Oh the  grace of God. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever learned, by your experience, the power of  believing prayer (Mark 11:24)? One of my favorite passages on prayer is Acts 12:1-16. Sometimes  we pray—but don’t really expect God to answer. Of course, we shouldn’t expect God to answer selfish  prayers (James 4:3). But when we enroll in Christ’s school of prayer, we learn how to pray, including  confession, repentance, and forgive and praise. Theologian J. I. Packer says that repentance means: 

  • turning from as much as you know of your sin 
  • to give as much as you know of yourself  
  • to as much as you know of your God

As our knowledge grows at these three points, so our practice of repentance will be enlarged. 


  • “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). Have you turned from self to God? If you would like to trust Christ as Savior, contact us here. After providing your contact information, scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second  checkbox. You can also email us at: We look forward to helping!
  • Are you continuing to turn from as much as you know of your sin, to give  as much as you know of yourself, to as much as you know of your God?


Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)

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