The Lesson of Jonah’s Prayer

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly… JONAH 2:1

The comments of Hugh Martin (1822-1886), one of my favorite writers, are always profitable to read. In this case we learn something astute on prayer —

The prayer of Jonah is an illustrious instance of the conflict between sense and faith. And it will give unity to our meditations on it, if we keep this in view, and use this as the key to its interpretation; namely, that it discloses the action and reaction in the prophet’s soul, of sense and faith; sense prompting to despair; faith pleading for hope, and procuring victory . . .

The essential feature of the prayer — as a prayer of faith in circumstances that, save for faith, were altogether desperate — will commend it to every exercised believer, as a prayer to the proper understanding of which he will derive some light from his own experience, and which, when properly understood, will in its turn reflect light on his own experience back again, and tend to purify and strengthen that experience too.

For this prayer of faith, though in unparalleled circumstances, and spiritually noble in a marvellous degree, contains in it nothing but the ordinary principles of all believing prayer; and though we may not equal it in degree, if our prayers are not the same in kind, they are false.

Is not this the very trial of faith; namely, to have circumstances to contend with which appear to extinguish hope, yea, which viewed in themselves, not only appear to, but actually do shut out all hope whatever? Take the case of Abraham, and the character and commendation of his faith . . . ‘Against hope he believed in hope’ (Rom. 4:18) . . .

This is the victory which faith has to achieve.

from his Commentary on Jonah, Banner of Truth Trust, 1958

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