Dr. Rick Reed, President of Heritage College & Theological Seminary, launched us yesterday into a series on prayer in our Fall 2016 semester. (On a side note, I recall reading articles from the Ottawa newspaper, passed on to me by my illustrious ‘Aunt Alice,’ in which Dr. Reed wrote while pastoring The Metropolitan Bible Church. Little did I know that I would one day work with him.)
In preaching from Matthew 6 yesterday on “How Not To Pray,” Dr. Reed cited the National Post Article on Prayer from earlier this year. All kinds of people pray but as he noted “all prayers are not created equal.” What does it mean to pray like a ‘Canadian?’ Or is that the right question?
The Bible teaches us a great deal on the subject of prayer. In the prophet Jonah’s four chapter adventure, there is lots of praying offered by a wide range of people. Note the examples in chapter 1 –
1:5 “All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own God.”
1:6 “Get up and call on your god.”
1:14 “Then they cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD, please do not…. Do not….”
Various circumstances drive people to pray. Jonah’s first recorded prayer in the book is cited as coming ‘from inside the fish.’ This is probably not the easiest place to call out to God, but Jonah is, shall we say, ‘highly motivated.’
A few observations about his prayer –
It is penned like Hebrew poetry in statements of parallel declaration. Parallel thought reinforces the truth being taught. We all benefit from repetition.
Note the verbs Jonah uses to describe his own actions – “I called… I said… ‘I have been banished… I will look again… I sank down… I remembered… I will sacrifice… I have vowed… I will make good…” Prayer is our honest communication with God where we own up to our past and present commitments and failures and renew our commitment to future obedience. Do we ever have difficulty being honest with God?
Note the verbs Jonah uses to describe God’s actions – “…He answered …You listened ….You hurled …You brought …” Jonah is tracing his experience of God. He is tracing the mysterious hand of God, His mercy, His judgment and His love through his present and past circumstances. Are we able to trace God’s activities through the challenges of daily living?
Does Jonah fully repent through this prayer time? Is he now totally willing to do whatever God requests, whenever God requests it? Or does he simply want God to ‘get him out of the mess he’s made of his life?’ The proof is ‘in the living.’ He will hear the word of the LORD ‘a second time,’ and be given an opportunity to follow the will of God for his life. His communication with God isn’t over. He hasn’t reached the zenith of perfection. He’s a struggling child of God and as one he’s learning some big lessons in prayer–lessons that Canadians (and others) urgently need to learn.