Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.Jonah 2:1 (HCSB)
It is hard to imagine this sight: a man praying inside a fish. It is comical and yet horrifying at the same time. I can could imagine two very different film directors taking this scene in two very different directions. One takes it in the direction of Monty Python and has John Cleese cramped inside a cartoon fish, like a giant trying to fit into a Mini. The other has a man screaming out his prayers from inside the hideous stomach of a monstrous sea creature as it churns and burns him.
What was it like for Jonah inside the fish? We do not know. We do know that it lasted three days because it was a prophecy of the coming of Christ, but I doubt that this was of any comfort to Jonah who was none the wiser! Whatever it was like inside the fish, it teaches us that, wherever we are, we can pray to God. Sometimes the troubles of life seem to swallow us whole, the light is closed off, and we are swamped by despair and fear. Even in our darkest times, our first instinct should be to pray to the Lord our God. Indeed, even the ardent atheists or agnostics will often pray in times of true danger. It is natural for humans to call on a higher power when overwhelmed—it is instinctual and wired into our DNA.
Sometimes, it is the joys of life that seem to swallow us whole–when the burning horrors of pain are closed off and we are swamped with laughter and contentment. It is much harder for our first instinct in these situations to be to pray to the Lord our God—we naturally seem to ignore God when all goes well. We, instead, pat ourselves on the back for the work we put in or the fortune we manufactured. But the truth is that God sends both rain and sun upon the righteous and the unrighteous—this is His common grace (Matthew 5:45). As Christians we must train ourselves to always, instinctually, thank and praise God for all that is good, so that it is as much a part of our DNA as crying out to Him in the abyss of our despair.