|Theme: A Rebellious Prayer
|Focus on: Jonah
|Reading Portion(s): Jonah 4
|– Important Background Information
|– Helps you find strength in God
|What this article teaches you
|We rarely pray when we are angry. That is because we will be in no mood to pray. We try to vent that anger somewhere else. But then there are some who pray when they become angry. Even while they burn with anger they pray with sugar-coated words and in very sweet voice. But God cannot be deceived. He sees our hearts and understands every motive behind our thoughts.
It is better to tell God that we are angry. That doesn’t mean shouting at God. It only means being honest with God. Again, when we become angry we even talk about our best friends in a bad light if we think that they did something wrong.
In a similar way God’s best servants sometimes talk about God in a wrong way when they become angry. But we should talk to God in prayer even when angry only after recalling His goodness and mercy. This is most important when we don’t understand His ways of dealing with us.
Jonah is unlike any other prophet in the Old Testament. He was given a mission by the Lord to preach against the city of Nineveh. But Jonah rebels against God’s command and flees to Tarshish far away from Nineveh.
God caused the sea to grow rough. The sailors in the ship found out that Jonah was the cause of all their misery. They threw him out of the ship at his own advice. Then the sea grew calm.
But God had not finished His merciful dealings with Jonah. The Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. And from inside the fish Jonah prayed. In this prayer he thanks God for hearing his cry and prayer in distress and saving him. He finally says that salvation comes from the Lord.
After the fish vomited Jonah onto the dry land according to God’s command, the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. He was asked to go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim there the message the Lord would give him.
The message was that Nineveh will be destroyed in forty days time. The Ninevites including the king, the people and the beasts repented. God saw this change of heart and had compassion on them. Therefore He did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.
This displeased Jonah. He was really angry. So he prayed. He said that he had earlier told God that this was what was going to happen. Jonah tells God that this was the reason for his very quick flight to Tarshish. He tells God that he already knew that He was a gracious and compassionate God. He added that he knew that God was slow to anger and also abounding in love.
More than all this what had irritated Jonah was the fact that his God was One who relented from sending calamity; especially when people repented. Jonah closes the prayer by asking God to take away his life; for he found it better to die than live.
Jonah’s prayer is a very unique one in the entire Bible. We do not come across such a strong and rebellious prayer anywhere else. The prayer comes as a surprise to us because we find a prophet being unhappy for the good that God did to a people destined for destruction.
As we look at this rebellious prayer we find a few gems scattered in it. The first thing that strikes us is its honesty. Jonah was angry and greatly displeased. And he told God exactly how he felt. How many times in life have we been angry; maybe angry with God? Out of this how many times have we polished and refined our words to make our prayer sound sweet?
This is a question of utmost importance. It is not that we should shout at God in our anger. But it is important that we tell God how we feel. It is very important to be honest with God. Otherwise, our prayers will be simply full of hypocrisy which God detests.
Secondly, in this very rebellious prayer, Jonah is paying God a great tribute. He is paying God a great compliment. He first of all tells God that his anticipation of His goodness to the Ninevites made him flee to Tarshish. Poor Jonah might have thought that as a preacher he would become a failure if God does not destroy the Ninevites as he proclaimed.
Again Jonah tells God that He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and relenting from sending calamity. That is indeed a great compliment. Even in his anger Jonah does not project God in a bad light. He only proclaims God’s goodness. Even when we are angry in our praying let us not forget to see God in the true light of His character.
God then had to ask Jonah whether he had a right to be angry. God used a vine, a worm, the scorching east wind and the blazing sun to teach Jonah an important lesson. God taught Jonah that He is concerned more with the salvation of people than their destruction.