Before we look at some of the aspects of his prayer, let it sink in that he prayed.
In chapter one, we learn that Jonah tried to flee from the Lord’s presence by boarding a boat to Tarsus. In response, the Lord caused a mighty storm. The storm ceases once the pagans on the ship cry out to the Lord and throw Jonah into the sea. The Lord appoints a great fish to swallow Jonah.
“Then Jonah prayed” (Jonah 2:1).
I remember hearing this story when I was a child and I was always thought that the Lord was punishing Jonah by appointing the fish. But when we examine Jonah’s prayer, we see that’s not what Jonah thought!
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! – Jonah 2:6
Jonah was going to die if not for the fish. The fish was not an instrument of punishment; the fish was an instrument of salvation. Jonah was sinking to the depths of the sea, and the Lord saved him from dying. The storm and the fish were for Jonah’s good. Whenever God disciplines us, it is always redemptive.
I want you to know that God has appointed something much greater than a fish to come to your rescue and provide salvation. He has appointed His Son.
But God knew what would happen, and His prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released Him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. – Acts 2:23-24
Before the foundation of the world, God appointed His son to die and then to conquer sin and death for your salvation and His glory. Oh, that we would be like Jonah and pray in our distress! God does not want us to perish and is willing to respond. In spite of our guilt, like Jonah, He will hear us.
Let us join with Jonah in saying, “Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone” (Jonah 2:8-9). When Jonah remembered the Lord, he began to change. When we truly understand God’s grace, we change. We do not change in fear of punishment, but because we know that in Christ there is no punishment for us. Christ took my punishment and gave me His righteousness (Romans 4:22-25). His love and Word do not ever return void.