“The Prayer” (Mercy Upon Mercy)
Scripture: Jonah 1:17-2:10
Many people know that they should pray but the problem is that they don’t know how to pray. This is especially true during times of suffering and difficulty. We know we should pray but we simply can’t find the words to articulate. When Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, he was in a very dark and depressing place. And yet he managed to pray. How? A close examination of Jonah’s prayers reveal that none of his prayers were original. They were all adaptions and modifications of various psalms. Every verse of Jonah’s prayer can be traced back to prayer in a psalm.
God gave us the psalms so that his words could become our words, especially when otherwise all we would have are groans. God gives us the psalms as a provision, as an act of grace, so that we can express our heart back to him in an intelligible way. The psalms help us express our frustrations and our fears, our doubts and our distress in God-approved ways. In order to grow in prayer, it will be incredibly helpful to grow in your familiarity, understanding, meditation, and memorization of the psalms. This will give you better access to the language of God that you can use to pray back to God.
Our comfort as Christians though does not come simply from the command – pray the psalms like Jonah. Our hope comes from the gospel. When Jesus likened his death and resurrection to Jonah’s experience in the fish, Jesus was identifying himself as the greater Jonah. But as the fulfillment of a greater Jonah, Jesus also prayed the psalms in his own suffering and despair. As he hung on the cross for our sins, Jesus was reduced to borrowing the words of the psalms. By doing this, Jesus was experiencing in himself the fullest sting and greatest agony of the the psalms. Jesus took on every experience and emotion that the psalmist articulates so that it would have no more power over us. This means when we experience these things in our lives, they can not ultimately drown us. We have new hope and new strength.
Group Discussion Questions
- As a group, summarize the sermon together into a few sentences.
- Share an experience where you wanted to pray but couldn’t find the words to pray. Were you eventually able to pray through it? What helped?
- What is your general view and attitude of the psalms? Is it a book that you love to read or do you have a hard time enjoying it? Why?
- Do you have a favorite psalm? Share it and tells others why. What about it resonates with you? How has it ministered to you and helped you pray? (Or take a favorite psalm of yours and try to turn it into a prayer to borrow)
- Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this message?
- Everybody should formulate a one sentence prayer response and request to everything heard and discussed. Have a few people share what they came up with.