Monday, January 28, 2019

Reflection - Jonah Prays, God Delivers - Life of Prayer

Source (book): "God in Pursuit", Chapter 4, Question 1, Page 61.
By Robert M. Solomon, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore from 2000 - 2012


Why do people pray seriously only when they are in trouble?
PHOTO: Why do people pray seriously only when they are in trouble?
How typical of us, to pray only when in real trouble! When everything is going well, our thoughts are likely to stray far from God. When we have more than enough to eat, when our health is good, and when everything is going our way, it is so easy to forget about God, or to forget the need to pray to Him. This may be partly due to the fact that for many Christians, prayer is little more than a way of asking God for help or for things that we want. Many of us treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to God only when we need something from Him.

But this is a distorted concept of prayer. It reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using God for our own purposes. Imagine a child who speaks to his father only when he needs something, but does not even acknowledge his father's presence when he is busy playing with his toys and video games. How hurt his father would feel!


Assess your own prayer life and determine how you can develop a life of prayer that is always thriving.
My prayer life is similar to that of many Christians. Prayer is little more than a way of asking God for help or for things that we want. I have to acknowledge that this is not the correct way of prayer. Because it reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using God for our own purposes. Although I have been trying to pray continually, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I still seriously pray when there is fear of trouble, or in the middle of difficulties. I still treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to God only when we need something from Him.

I should not only pray when in real trouble. In order to develop a life of prayer that is always thriving, I should also let God knows that we appreciate His efforts, even when everything is going well. When the weather is good during our morning walk, I should not just enjoy the fine and cooling environment without telling God about it. When we have more than enough to eat, when our health is good, and when everything is going our way, we should not forget that He is the one making it possible. In such circumstances, our thoughts may stray, and we forget the need to pray to Him. When we have successful reunion dinners during the Lunar New Years, our heartfelt happiness should also be felt by Him, through our prayers. Our life of prayer is to be in the direction of having a healthy relationship with God.


What lessons can we learn from the Lord Jesus' example?
Anyone holding a mistaken notion of prayer must turn to Jesus and learn about true prayer. Yes, Jesus prayed when He was troubled, for example, before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:36-46). But that kind of praying resulted from a lifetime of prayer. Jesus saw the need to pray regularly and frequently: He often went to quiet places to spend time alone with His heavenly Father. The Son of God demonstrated that prayer lies at the heart of a relationship with God.
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Why do people pray seriously only when they are in trouble? Assess your own prayer life and determine how you can develop a life of prayer that is always thriving. What lessons can we learn from the Lord Jesus' example?

Why do people pray seriously only when they are in trouble?
[1]
In Jonah 2, we find the fleeing prophet having a surreal experience - inside the belly of a big fish that God had sent to swallow him whole. We can imagine what he was feeling at the time. Lying in the dark, damp, and smelly stomach, he might have been gasping for air as he tried to unwind some seaweed wrapped around his head. He faced the prospect of suffocating or dissolving in the acidic contents of its stomach. It was a horrible way to die. In that near-death experience, the prophet finally raised an SOS prayer to God. "In my distress I called to the Lord . . . From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help" (Jonah 2:2).


In Jonah 2, we find the fleeing prophet having a surreal experience - inside the belly of a big fish that God had sent to swallow him whole.
PHOTO: In Jonah 2, we find the fleeing prophet having a surreal experience - inside the belly of a big fish that God had sent to swallow him whole. Lying in the dark, damp, and smelly stomach, he might have been gasping for air as he tried to unwind some seaweed wrapped around his head. In that near-death experience, the prophet finally raised an SOS prayer to God.
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It was a strange venue to pray. It was also the first time that Jonah prayed to the Lord. In Chapter 1, we do not see him praying at any time. Not after receiving the difficult assignment from God. Not when he went down to Joppa to buy a ticket to Tarshish. Not when he realised that God was pursuing him in the storm. Not when he was questioned by the sailors. Not even when he was about to be thrown overboard. It was only when Jonah found himself inside a fish and realised that he would die in it that he prayed to the Lord his God. Only when he was in deep trouble did he turn to God in desperation.


It was a strange venue to pray.
PHOTO: It was a strange venue to pray. It was also the first time that Jonah prayed to the Lord. Not when he was in Gath-hepher, Joppa, in the storm, questioned by the sailors, and about to be thrown overboard. It was only when Jonah found himself inside a fish and realised that he would die in it that he prayed to the Lord his God. Only when he was in deep trouble did he turn to God in desperation.
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How typical of us, to pray only when in real trouble! When everything is going well, our thoughts are likely to stray far from God. When we have more than enough to eat, when our health is good, and when everything is going our way, it is so easy to forget about God, or to forget the need to pray to Him. This may be partly due to the fact that for many Christians, prayer is little more than a way of asking God for help or for things that we want. Many of us treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to God only when we need something from Him.


It typical of us, to pray only when in real trouble.
PHOTO: It typical of us, to pray only when in real trouble. When everything is going well, our thoughts are likely to stray far from God. When we have more than enough to eat, when our health is good, and when everything is going our way, it is so easy to forget about God, or to forget the need to pray to Him.  Many of us treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to God only when we need something from Him.
Picture posted by JW.org - Hannah praying when deeply troubled by her barrenness

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But this is a distorted concept of prayer. It reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using God for our own purposes. Imagine a child who speaks to his father only when he needs something, but does not even acknowledge his father's presence when he is busy playing with his toys and video games. How hurt his father would feel!


Prayer reduced to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using God for our own purposes.
PHOTO: Prayer reduced to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using God for our own purposes. It is like a child who speaks to his father only when in need of something, but does not even acknowledge his father's presence.
Picture posted by POLITYKA.PL on 01 September 2016
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Assess your own prayer life and determine how you can develop a life of prayer that is always thriving.
It is natural to pray when we are in trouble and need help. But we need to pray at other times too; we need to be careful of becoming prayer-less when everything is going well for us. God knows the human heart and warns of the danger of forgetfulness when we enjoy prosperity. He warn us:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 8:10-14, emphasis added).



It is natural to pray when we are in trouble and need help.
PHOTO: It is natural to pray when we are in trouble and need help. But we need to pray at other times too; we need to be careful of becoming prayer-less when everything is going well for us. God knows the human heart and warns of the danger of forgetfulness when we enjoy prosperity.
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That was probably why Agur, the writer of Proverbs 30, prayed to the Lord, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God" (Proverbs 30:8-9).


Agur, the writer of Proverbs 30, prayed to the Lord
PHOTO: Agur, the writer of Proverbs 30, prayed to the Lord, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God" (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Picture posted by Michel GUERRE on 05 October 2016
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The way to deal with this danger is to pay heed to the advice of the apostle Paul: "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We cannot do this if we confine prayer to specific times set aside for communicating with God. If we see prayer as relationship maintained by an ongoing conversation with God, however, then we can understand what Paul meant.


It is natural to pray when we are in trouble and need help.
PHOTO: It is natural to pray when we are in trouble and need help. The way to deal with this danger is to pay heed to the advice of the apostle Paul: "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We cannot do this if we confine prayer to specific times set aside for communicating with God. We need to see prayer as relationship maintained by an ongoing conversation with God.
Picture posted by András Liszkai on 08 August 2018 - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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Why was Jonah not praying in Chapter 1? His disobedience had turned him into a prayer-less man, even though he was supposed to be a prophet of God. It is difficult to maintain a relationship with God when we are running away from Him; it is difficult to pray when we keep on disobeying Him. Why? Because our consciences sleep most deeply when we are sinning.

 

It is difficult to maintain a relationship with God when we are running away from Him; it is difficult to pray when we keep on disobeying Him.
PHOTO:  It is difficult to maintain a relationship with God when we are running away from Him; it is difficult to pray when we keep on disobeying Him. Why? Because our consciences sleep most deeply when we are sinning.
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On the other hand, suffering and prayer can open our eyes to our spiritual condition and help us to see our sin.



Suffering and prayer can open our eyes to our spiritual condition and help us to see our sin.
PHOTO: Suffering and prayer can open our eyes to our spiritual condition and help us to see our sin.
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In his book, Where Is God When It Hurts, Christian writer Philip Yancey tells the story of how 17th-century poet and preacher John Donne suffered after he married the daughter of a disapproving lord. [16] Fired from his job as assistant to the Lord Chancellor, he was separated from his wife and thrown in prison, where he wrote the famously succinct (briefly and clearly expressed) line, "John Donne/Anne Donne/Undone". Later, he endured a long illness that sapped his strength and took him almost to the point of death. During this time, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering which rank among the most poignant of meditations on the subject. In one of these, he made this observation: the sickness that had kept him in bed had forced him to think about his spiritual condition.


In his book, Where Is God When It Hurts, Christian writer Philip Yancey tells the story of how 17th-century poet and preacher John Donne suffered after he married the daughter of a disapproving lord.
PHOTO: In his book, Where Is God When It Hurts, Christian writer Philip Yancey tells the story of how 17th-century poet and preacher John Donne suffered after he married the daughter of a disapproving lord. Donne endured a long illness that sapped his strength and took him almost to the point of death. During this time, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering which rank among the most poignant of meditations on the subject. He made this observation: the sickness that had kept him in bed had forced him to think about his spiritual condition.
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Suffering gets our attentions, forcing us to look to God when we would otherwise ignore Him. As famous Christian writer C. S. Lewis reminds us in his book, The Problem of Pains, "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." [17]


Suffering gets our attentions, forcing us to look to God when we would otherwise ignore Him.
PHOTO: Suffering gets our attentions, forcing us to look to God when we would otherwise ignore Him.
"Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C. S. Lewis.
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Perhaps it was the same for Jonah. Only when he turned to God as he lay in the belly of the big fish, did he acknowledge that he was suffering the consequence of his own disobedience. He knew that God had hurled him into the depths, and that his survival depended on God. Only then did he lean on God and pray for His mercy. And as he did, he prayed a most beautiful prayer.


Only when Jonah turned to God as he lay in the belly of the big fish, did he acknowledge that he was suffering the consequence of his own disobedience.
PHOTO: Only when Jonah turned to God as he lay in the belly of the big fish, did he acknowledge that he was suffering the consequence of his own disobedience. He knew that God had hurled him into the depths, and that his survival depended on God. Only then did he lean on God and pray for His mercy. Suffering gets our attentions, forcing us to look to God when we would otherwise ignore Him.
Picture posted by iStockphoto LP (Getty Images)

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My prayer life is similar to that of many Christians. Prayer is little more than a way of asking God for help or for things that we want. I have to acknowledge that this is not the correct way of prayer. Because it reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using God for our own purposes. Although I have been trying to pray continually, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I still seriously pray when there is fear of trouble, or in the middle of difficulties. I still treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to God only when we need something from Him.


We may have been treating prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to God only when we need something from Him.
PHOTO: We may have been treating prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to God only when we need something from Him. This will reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using God for our own purposes.
Painting by B.Nicole Klassen, American Still Life Artist
Picture posted by Hayang modol on Thursday, 14 June 2012

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http://hayang-modol.blogspot.com/2012/06/bnicole-klassen-american-still-life.html



I should not only pray when in real trouble. In order to develop a life of prayer that is always thriving, I should also let God knows that we appreciate His efforts, even when everything is going well. When the weather is good during our morning walk, I should not just enjoy the fine and cooling environment without telling God about it. When we have more than enough to eat, when our health is good, and when everything is going our way, we should not forget that He is the one making it possible. In such circumstances, our thoughts may stray, and we forget the need to pray to Him. When we have successful reunion dinners during the Lunar New Years, our heartfelt happiness should also be felt by Him, through our prayers. Our life of prayer is to be in the direction of having a healthy relationship with God.


Praying should not be done only when in real trouble.
PHOTO: Praying should not be done only when in real trouble. In order to develop a life of prayer that is always thriving, we should also show Him that we appreciate His efforts. We should realise that when everything is going well, He is the one making it possible. And He would like to share our feelings of  happiness and misery, because we are His first-loved. Our life of prayer is to be in the direction of having a healthy relationship with God.
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What lessons can we learn from the Lord Jesus' example?
Anyone holding a mistaken notion of prayer must turn to Jesus and learn about true prayer. Yes, Jesus prayed when He was troubled, for example, before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:36-46). But that kind of praying resulted from a lifetime of prayer. Jesus saw the need to pray regularly and frequently: He often went to quiet places to spend time alone with His heavenly Father. The Son of God demonstrated that prayer lies at the heart of a relationship with God.


Jesus prayed when He was troubled, for example, before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:36-46).
PHOTO: Jesus prayed when He was troubled, for example, before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:36-46). But that kind of praying resulted from a lifetime of prayer. Jesus saw the need to pray regularly and frequently: prayer lies at the heart of a relationship with God.
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Dear Lord,  Please help us not to take prayer as a little more than a way of asking you for help or for things that we want. Many of us treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to you only when we need something from you.<br>We learn that this is a distorted concept of prayer. It reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using you for our own purposes.<br>My prayer life is similar to that of many Christians. Prayer is little more than a way of asking you for help or for things that we want. I have to acknowledge that this is not the correct way of prayer. Because it reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using you for our own purposes. Although I have been trying to pray continually, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I still seriously pray when there is fear of trouble, or in the middle of difficulties. I still treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to you only when we need something from you.<br>Help us not to pray only when in real trouble. In order to develop a life of prayer that is always thriving, we should also let you know that we appreciate your efforts, even when everything is going well. When we have more than enough to eat, when our health is good, and when everything is going our way, help us not to forget that God is the one making it possible. Please stop our thoughts from straying, and forget the need to pray to you. Our heartfelt feelings should also be felt by you, through our prayers. Please help our life of prayer to be in the direction of having a healthy relationship with you.<br>Through Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen!
PHOTO: "Dear Lord,  Please help us not to take prayer as a little more than a way of asking you for help or for things that we want. Many of us treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to you only when we need something from you.

We learn that this is a distorted concept of prayer. It reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using you for our own purposes.

My prayer life is similar to that of many Christians. Prayer is little more than a way of asking you for help or for things that we want. I have to acknowledge that this is not the correct way of prayer. Because it reduces prayer to a self-centred, self-preserving, self-serving way of using you for our own purposes. Although I have been trying to pray continually, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I still seriously pray when there is fear of trouble, or in the middle of difficulties. I still treat prayer like an ATM machine, to which we go only when we need money - we go to you only when we need something from you.

Help us not to pray only when in real trouble. In order to develop a life of prayer that is always thriving, we should also let you know that we appreciate your efforts, even when everything is going well. When we have more than enough to eat, when our health is good, and when everything is going our way, help us not to forget that God is the one making it possible. Please stop our thoughts from straying, and forget the need to pray to you. Our heartfelt feelings should also be felt by you, through our prayers. Please help our life of prayer to be in the direction of having a healthy relationship with you.

Through Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen!
"
Fairy Painting by Corey Ford - Fairy And White Unicorn
Picture posted by Pixels.com on 16 August 2016

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Reflection - Jonah Prays, God Delivers - Life of Prayer
Question from source (book): "God in Pursuit", Chapter 4, Question 1, Page 61.
By Robert M. Solomon, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore from 2000 - 2012





Also from the same author, Robert M. Solomon

"Faithful to the end", A Preacher's Exposition of 2 Timothy, @ 2014 by Robert M. Solomon

'Faithful to the end', A Preacher's Exposition of 2 Timothy, @ 2014 by Robert M. Solomon<br>
Reflection - Faithful to the end (Links)
https://veryfatoldman.blogspot.com/2017/06/reflection-faithful-to-end-links.html



"Finding rest for the soul" Responding to Jesus' Invitation in Matthew 11:28-29, © 2016 by Robert M. Solomon


Reflection - Finding rest for the soul (Links)
Reflection - Finding rest for the soul (Links)
https://veryfatoldman.blogspot.com/2018/10/reflection-finding-rest-for-soul-links.html



Reference
[1] From "God in Pursuit" Lessons from the Book of Jonah, Copyright © 2017 by Robert M. Solomon, ISBN 978-1-62707-801-6, Part II: Jonah 2:1-10, Chapter 4 "Jonah Prays, God Delivers", Page 47-51.

[16] Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), 58.

[17] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 1940/1996), 91.


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