4 January 2024

Prayer connects us to God—even in a dark belly. Using the story of the prophet Jonah, who is swallowed by a large fish, District Apostle John Schnabel (USA) shows what makes a good prayer.

In the second chapter of Jonah, the prophet finds himself in the belly of a great fish and is driven to prayer. It is an example of a very raw and heart-wrenching conversation with the Lord that ultimately results in the prophet being able to emerge from a very dark place as a changed person.

An effective prayer is usually characterised by a heavy dose of realism. You acknowledge and confront your issues and, perhaps in anguish, call out to the Lord. The Lord is never surprised. After all, He knows before you ask (Matthew 6: 8), but you must first move your heart toward Him if you want to get past your fears and doubts. Consider Jonah’s battle: once he found himself in the abyss, he poured out his heart to and expressed his confidence in God.

As human beings we must challenge our doubts. Faith advances when we discount our own thinking and seek the Lord. The more we seek Him, the easier this becomes. Those who pray often and effectually can dive into their relationship with the Almighty and find immediate comfort, even in a dark belly!

But one must also pray in Jesus’ name or, in other words, pray in a manner like Him. How can you do this when pressed against on all sides? You could use Jonah’s prayer as a template, or perhaps a prayer like this: “Lord, I cry out to You. You see what is happening in my life. Ease my heart, release me from trying to carry my burden alone. I look for You, please help. I give You praise for what You are going to do, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

As you pray earnestly, you will find that you are not only talking to God, but are also talking to your own soul which harbours the gift of the Holy Spirit. He allows you to see where you stand with God: He is present, He blesses you, He desires to spend eternity with you, and He will never abandon you. The Lord reminds you to consider the lilies of the field, and not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6: 28, 34). This allows you to reprogramme and thereby see as our Lord does. Prayer not only gives you the ability to express yourself and connect you with the source of power, but also makes you think along with the Spirit, in the mind of Jesus (Philippians 2: 5).

Together, we must arouse this knowledge and assurance of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be casual with the Lord, waiting for something to happen or change by itself. We have a proactive posture in our faith and are always going to Him.

Pray through your fears and doubts, trust in the Almighty One and then the “fish” can release you, and you can change through God’s grace.