Monday, January 24, 2011

Desperation or Wonder

I call out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depths and You heard my voice…Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.

While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple…I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving
Jonah 2:2-9

By the reference you most likely know that the author of the text placed himself in a pretty precarious position due to his own choices and decisions. I’m quite certain that you haven’t encountered the wrong side of a big fish but, undoubtedly, you have placed yourself in your own precarious situations due to some less that stellar decisions of your own. So how did you feel when the weeds were wrapped around your head?

A flood of feelings come to mind but a desire to pray isn’t likely one of those. Desperation oftentimes compels us to "cry out" to the Lord. This type of desperate prayer is absolutely valid and necessary from time to time. We see another example of this when Peter jumped out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the surface of the lake only to begin to sink. Peter discovered that he had few options and he "cried out" "save me Lord". Of course Jesus did rescue Peter from his decision in spite of the weakness of his faith. Likewise, Jonah found himself in a desperate situation due to decisions that he had made and had few options available to him therefore he "cried out" to God for help.

Although valid and acceptable because of Jesus, desperation prayer is not a prayer of faith. A prayer of faith accomplishes things beyond our ability to comprehend and oftentimes beyond our ability to see. After all, that is what faith is all about.

The pathway from the prayer of desperation to the prayer of faith is illustrated in Jonah’s text: I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving.

Oh, how easy it is to express our thankfulness when things are going well. It is a different matter entirely when we are wrapped in seaweed at the bottom of the ocean. This is the type of sacrifice that reaches the very heart of God. This is the sacrifice that is modeled after Jesus when in agony caused by his physical pain magnified beyond all reason by my sin on His back He ask the Father to "forgive them".

Today, right this moment, there are things or people or situations that are not to you liking. You have been burdened by this thing for some time. Now would be a good time to offer Jesus a "sacrifice of thanksgiving" as you throw yourself upon His mighty shoulders.

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