The story of Jonah and the big fish is surely told so very often that it has lost its kick for some people. We like to shake our heads at Jonah, and some people even chuckle at his attempt to run from God. The sad thing is that we are all like Jonah at some point in our lives for we all have moments when we try the “run first and pray later.” Who has not liked what God was asking and held off and did something else? Who thought their way was better than God’s way? Who was directed to do something, but waited to do it or never did it at all? Who does not even listen to God at all to know the plan He has for them?
In Jonah 2, the first verse says, “Then Jonah prayed.” He was already inside the fish. THEN he prayed. See he ran from God, took off in a boat, and the boat was going all over the place in the water. He could have prayed then. I wonder if he foolishly thought perhaps that he could still make it away. He was not praying, and yet the people on board feared they would sink to their doom. The waters had to be rough and showed no sign of letting up, but Jonah went to sleep.
Now when the people tossed Jonah overboard and he is swallowed, perhaps then it was a reality check. I guess I’m not able to hide from God. Perhaps he recognized that there was no hope to get away now. Since there is no hope for him to do something on his own, for him to get away, for his plan to work— THEN he prayed. He got himself into trouble, THEN he prayed. He disobeyed, THEN he prayed.
We run first and then pray later too often. We make our decisions without asking God for His will. We think that by chance we will be able to do something on our own. We hope that our way will work out. When we realize we need God, when things are falling apart, when we do not have everything in place– then we want God to help. It is part of our human nature. We sadly think we know best. For some reason, we think that we have a better plan.
Disobedience is something we all partake in, but there’s hope. As Jonah noted in verse 2:2, God heard him and answered. He goes even further than simply listening, and saves Jonah from the mess he got himself into from not following Him in the first place. He forgives him and helps rescue him so that Jonah can do what he was initially supposed to do.
Life is filled with decisions. We can chose to run first and pray later, or we can decide to pray first so there is no need to run. I do not know your life story, but I know that my own story gives me example after example of the times when I went out for a run, only to come back to pray later. Without God, there is no satisfaction in life. He knows our needs; He has designed our purpose. With praying first and seeking His will, there is no need for our legs to run. Instead, I find that when we do this, instead of our legs getting the work, we are lifting our voices in praise. His plan is so good. He is so good.
“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.’”
– 1 Samuel 15:22 [NIV]