Big Fish…Big Attitude – Prayers From a Fish Belly

Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:

“I called out to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me.
        From the belly of the underworld I cried out for help;
        you have heard my voice.
You had cast me into the depths in the heart of the seas,
        and the flood surrounds me.
        All your strong waves and rushing water passed over me.
So I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight.
        Will I ever again look on your holy temple?
Waters have grasped me to the point of death;
        the deep surrounds me.
Seaweed is wrapped around my head
        at the base of the undersea mountains.
I have sunk down to the underworld;
        its bars held me with no end in sight.
        But you brought me out of the pit.’
When my endurance was weakening,
        I remembered the Lord,
        and my prayer came to you,
            to your holy temple.
Those deceived by worthless things lose their chance for mercy.[d]
But me, I will offer a sacrifice to you with a voice of thanks.
        That which I have promised, I will pay.
            Deliverance belongs to the Lord!”

(Jonah 2:1-9, Common English Bible).

God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah. Instead, he tries to go to Tarshish. The weather turns bad, bad to the point of scaring the crew. Jonah realizes its all his fault and instructs the crew to throw him into the sea. Eventually, they do and the weather clears.

The weather may have cleared but Jonah is still in trouble. Miles from shore, this prophet is just trying to survive in the sea, but you can only tread water for so long before you become tired. When in Scouts and again in the Navy, I learned how to use my clothes as a flotation device. I am not too sure how well that would work with robes.

God still had work to do. And, God would provide grace for Jonah again as Jonah becomes fish bait. God sent a great fish that swallowed Jonah up in a single bite. Now our hero finds himself in the belly of a large fish. He finally decides it is time to pray.

I can’t speak for you. But, as for me, I think I might have started praying while I was still on the boat. “Lord, I know you wanted me to go to Ninevah and instead I ran in the opposite direction. I was wrong for doing that. Lord, I recognize that was a pretty dumb move and you hold all the power and if you wanted you could crush me. But Lord, the boat crew has done nothing wrong and deserve better than this. Please Lord, calm the sea. When we reach Tarshis I will get on another boat and go to Ninevah as you first instructed. Please, Lord. Amen.”

Instead of praying, however, Jonah decides it would be better to take a swim and then be a helping of human stew for a giant fish. It is only after this calamity that Jonah realizes God will win and he begins to pray.

Paul tells us we are to pray without ceasing. Jonah should have prayed before he ran. I am not saying I might not have tried to run too. But maybe, just maybe, had Jonah prayed, he might have avoided calamity he and others suffered at sea.

We must be people of prayer, not just when we are tired of smelling the fish, but all the time, seeking God’s guidance for the things we are supposed to do and for the things we want to do. When we begin with prayer, we can avoid at least some of life’s storms.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

"The Pastor Ponders" is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. Bishop and I live in Sweeny, Texas where I am the pastor of First United Methodist Church. I have served here for the past two years. For the past 27 years I have served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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