It is said that some tribes of Native Americans held an interesting rite of passage for their young men. On the night of a boy’s 13th birthday, he would walk into the darkness of the forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of his family and his tribe. On this night, he was blindfolded and taken miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of thick woods, by himself, all night long. Every time a twig snapped, he probably visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. Every time an animal howled, he imagined a wolf leaping out of the darkness. Every time the wind blew, he wondered what more sinister sound it masked. No doubt it was a terrifying night for many.
After what seemed like an eternity, the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrows. It was the boy’s father. He had been there all night long.
It is in such a situation that the prophet Jonah finds himself as the second chapter of his book opens. Running from God, he has brought upon himself and others a massive storm that ends in him being thrown overboard. While the sailors are met by calm seas and begin a worship service, Jonah is sinking fast; it’s at that moment that God shows up with an odd vehicle of salvation.
Today, we are going to look at the conversation with God that follows. You can learn a lot about prayer, both how to pray and how not to pray, by studying the prayers of key people in Scripture. Jonah’s prayer comes from one of the most unusual places, but is strangely familiar, as well.