Praying in Dark Times

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Praying in the deep dark pit of life…
What do you do when you are in trouble? When you know you disobeyed and are being punished for your disobedience? Jonah prayed. How long? 3 days and 3 nights. What did he say?

v. 1 inside the fish: a peculiar place to be! No one has ever survived being in the belly of a big fish, much less pray inside it.
v. 2 in the deepest darkest night of death, the most dreadful dreary places in life, call to the Lord. Help, Lord! Just two words. Jonah heard God’s answer. Jonah knew God listened.

Jonah’s Prayer
1:17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Chapter 2
1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’

Discipline is painful. Being banished from God’s sight is not a good place to be. It is like God has turned his face away from him. It’s like being told: I do not want to see you again. YET, Jonah chose to look once more at God’s holy temple – the symbol of God’s holy presence. When I fix my eyes and focus on God, knowing that He is present, my perspectives in my circumstances change.

5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.

Jonah’s experiences in the dark depths of the fish’s belly is real. These sentences are poetic but real as well. When the things are bad and frightening, Jonah chose to claim God’s salvation – God is the one to bring him back. At the end of life, Jonah remembered the Lord. He prayed to God – called on His holy presence.

But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.
7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

Jonah ended his prayer in praise and worship. He proclaimed that his God loves (v. 8) and He saves! (v. 9)

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah chose to pray and praise in spite of his dark experience in the belly of the fish. He claimed God’s salvation. And God listened to his prayers. God gave him another chance.

Are you in the midst of God’s discipline? Does it seem that God has banished you from his sight? Are you overwhelmed by waves of darkness and despair? Drowning in a sea of suffering – too much to bear?

Look again toward God’s holy temple. Remember the times He saved you and showed his grace and mercy towards you. The Lord your God brought you up from the pit. When life is draining away, when there is no strength left in you, remember the Lord, your God. Choose to pray and praise God for His love and His salvation.

Circumstances might not change. Yet know that God listens to our cries for help, our prayers of praise and worship.

Prayer changes perspectives. It brings the pray-er back to the presence of God – to the assurance that God is with him no matter what is happening around him.

And today, this is so true most especially in the dark world of the pandemic.. even so, Emmanuel – God with us!

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