Prayer at the bottom

By Dave Henning / August 20, 2023

“The usual place to learn the greatest secrets of God’s grace is at the bottom.  But it is not simply being at the bottom that begins to change Jonah but prayer at the bottom.”- Timothy Keller  (emphasis author’s)

“And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.  And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.  Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish.”- Jonah 1:17-2:1

In Chapter 6 (“Running from Grace”) of The Prodigal Prophet, Timothy Keller notes that the book of Jonah uses the verb appointed several times.  Thus, God orchestrated a circumstance in each case in order to teach Jonah something he desperately needed to learn.  Furthermore, using 20/20 hindsight, we can see how God’s severe mercies helped us learn life’s most important lessons.

Certainly, the great fish provides a perfect example of such a severe mercy. Yes, the fish saved Jonah’s life.  But for how long?  God needed to supply deliverance from this temporary respite.  Above all, to reject and disobey God, as Jonah did, requires radical treatment to remedy one’s problem.

Writing in Twelve Prophets, Peter C. Craigie explains that deliverance was possible for Jonah only when he was stripped of his own buoyant self-sufficiency.  In addition, as Pastor Keller notes:

“Peter Craigie . . . points out that the text has been depicting Jonah as descending — going down to Joppa, down into a ship, down into the depths of the ship — and now, finally, he goes even further down into the very depths of the ocean. . . .  There was a fatal flaw in Jonah’s character and it had lain dormant as long as his life was going well.  It was only through complete failure that he could begin to see it and change it.”

In conclusion, Pastor Keller stresses, the way up is, first of all, down.  Or as we read in Matthew 10:39, to find your life you must first lose it.

Today’s question: How did prayer at the bottom change you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Crucial truths – doctrine of grace”

About the author

Dave Henning

Leave a comment:

Call Now Button