Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
Jonah, while in the belly of the fish, has a conversation with God, using words from the Psalms. He asks for help, acknowledges God’s response, and thanks him for his rescue from death. Psalm 31 and Psalm 71 are also conversational prayers with God. I read these Psalms often and pray them for myself and for others. Psalm 71:1-2, “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge… 2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness,” I ask God to be my refuge, my rock, my strong fortress, my rescue, and my deliverer from my current worries, difficult situations, or conflicts and I pray for God to be that for others too.
In both Psalms the author makes requests of God, pours out feelings to him, gives him praise, asks for guidance, and God reveals his truth to the psalmist. Pouring out my soul to God can bring relief and puts me in a position to receive his comfort, “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.” Then I pray Psalm 71:20-21 to remember God’s faithfulness and to put my trust in him, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” Often, I need to learn to submit to God’s sovereignty and control, and I pray, “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands;” Psalm 31:14-15a.
Jonah ends his prayer with praise and thanksgiving for his salvation from death. Psalm 71:14-16 is an example of praise, “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I do not know its measure.”
Try praying one or both Psalms this week. Use the words of Psalm 31 and 71 to worship God, to spark your imagination to pray for others, put someone’s name into the words of these psalms as you pray, ask for guidance for yourself or for someone else, and talk to God about your feelings, circumstances, hopes and dreams.
By Grace Hunter