Abiding, Accountability, Attention, Bible, Confession, Discipline, Distress, God's Will, Hearing, Listening, Obedience, Prayer, Scripture

PRAYERS HEARD

JONAH 2:7

“‘While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.’”

I have heard of some incredible answers to prayer. I am sure you have also. Some of those answered prayers are just about too good to believe. If I had not known the person and situation personally, I would have never believed it. But God has a way of making believers out of unbelievers, doesn’t He?

Don’t forget our scene – Jonah is still in the belly of that fish. He’s been praying to God for the several verses. In the written book we have what may seem to be a short prayer. This prayer may have been given over that three-day period. Here in today’s verse, he is fainting away. I am assuming he must be towards the end of those three days. No water, no food, no light! He is week and feeble, yet he prays, “and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.” Wow!

APPLICATION

Even in your lowest hour, when you are at your weakest. None of us have been where Jonah was. So, we can surely pray to the Lord. We don’t have seaweed and stuff floating around us. But we may have other things trying to drown out our access to our holy God. We can’t let anything distract us from praying.

God is always listening, no matter where we are. We must not forget that God placed Jonah in the belly of that fish for a reason. He places us in our “fish’s belly” for a reason also. He wants to draw all our attention to Him.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to not learn my lessons in a fish’s belly. I want to walk in obedience and do what the Lord asks me to begin with. I have still got a lot to learn about obedience, but I am trying. I am listening. Are you? Or are you content to wallow around in your “fish’s belly”?

Thank You, Lord, for teaching me obedience. I want to learn quickly and do exactly what You tell me.

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Affection, Alone, Asking, Bible, Confession, Despair, Disciplemaking, Following, God's Will, Mercy, Prayer, Rescue, Scripture

THE PITS

JONAH 2:6

“I descended to the base of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, LORD my God.

You may have heard the expression, “this is the pits.” But where does that come from? Well, I looked that up. It can refer to armpits which implies body odor, something that is undesirable. It also can refer to someone who is in the depths of despair. That is what I think of when I hear this. Well…Jonah was in the pits.

Remember where he is when he says what we read in today’s verse – the belly of a fish in the depths of the sea. It’s hard to get much lower than that. He was low. He was in despair. Look what he says, though. He says, “You have brought up my life from the pit, LORD my God.” Wait just a minute. He’s still in that fish. But now he realizes no matter the circumstance, God can lift you up from the depths of despair.

APPLICATION

If you are like most people, you have found yourself in “the pits” at some time. How did you manage that? How do you get out of “the pit”? So many of us turn to counselors or doctors for help. They can be very helpful. But so many of us don’t look at the spiritual side of our despair. We are spiritual creatures, as well as physical.

I want to encourage you the next time you find yourself in “that pit” to turn to Jesus. Ask Him why you are feeling the way you are. Ask Him what He would have you do to get out of that low place. He may reveal some hidden sin in your life that needs confessing. He may point you to someone who has gone through what you are going through at the time.

I have had the privilege to share my journey through chemotherapy and stem cell transplants to others who are going through the same thing. Let me tell you – chemo will bring you down into a pit. You need others to encourage you during that time. What have you gone through and what lessons have you learned that you can share with someone today? Do that.

Being in “the pits” is no fun, Father. I thank You that You have lifted me up each time I have called on You.

HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY TO ALL THE MOMS OUT THERE READING MY BLOG!!

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Advocate, Affliction, Asking, Belief, Bible, Darkness, Distress, Fear, Inspirational, Prayer, Scripture

DISTRESS

JONAH 2:2

and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I called for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.’”

Have you ever been in distress? Through my illness and my two stem cell transplants, I can honestly say there were times I felt in distress. I was in anguish. I felt afflicted. Those were very adverse times. My health was fading, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. All I could do was turn to the Lord.

Jonah was in distress. His words remind me of Psalm 118:5 that says, “From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.” I find that kind of humorous – “a large place.” Jonah was indeed set in a large place – the belly of a big fish. He probably preferred a different setting.

APPLICATION

When you are in distress, what do you do? Who do you turn to? Some of us turn to alcohol. Others turn to drugs. Some get so involved in church they forget their distress. None of these work. You cannot medicate yourself or busy yourself out of distress. There is only one answer – Jesus.

Even in the belly of that fish, Jonah knew God would hear him. He did not know how God would answer, but at least He knew his prayers were ascending. They were not bouncing off the walls of that belly. We often feel our prayers are hitting the ceiling and going nowhere. Do not doubt the hearing capability of God.

There are so many examples I could give you of how God came through for me during times of distress. He would send a friend to see me in the hospital. He might burden someone to email me or call me. Just call on Him amid your distress. He can work miracles in and through us, if we will just believe.

O Lord, I have called on You many times, and You have always come through for me.

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PRAY ANYWHERE

JONAH 2:1

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish,”

One thing I have learned over the years is I can pray anywhere. I have prayed while being wheeled in for surgery. I have prayed sitting in a deer stand. I have prayed in the middle of a hurricane. I know my God is listening to me wherever I am. He doesn’t care if I am kneeling or standing, with my eyes open or closed. He just wants me to pray.

Jonah prayed “from the stomach of the fish.” Now, I haven’t tried that yet (and I don’t want to). He was truly in a pickle. God had assuredly rescued him from the deeps of the sea by sending the fish, but now what. How was God going to rescue him now? Or maybe He wasn’t. Maybe he was going to meet God with seaweed all over him.

APPLICATION

Pray! Just pray! There are so many passages of Scripture that tell us to pray. Some even tell us how to pray. Matthew 6:9-13 is what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer.” Have you read that lately? If not, take a minute and go do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

How did you like that? Our Lord Jesus showed us how to pray. I think He is a pretty good teacher. He knew how to pray. He knew the value of praying. He did it often, probably much more than is recorded in Scripture.

If you haven’t discovered the joy of praying, you really should try it. It sets you free. And the more you pray, the more you want to pray. You begin to hear His voice so much clearer. He wants to talk to you. Did you know that? Don’t wait to get swallowed by a big fish to begin your prayer time.

I love to talk to You, Lord, and to hear Your voice. Lord, speak!

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WHAT DO YOU DO IN A STORM?

JONAH 1:11

“So they said to him, ‘What should we do to you so that the sea will become calm for us?’—for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.”

Our family lived in Lakeland, Florida for several years and had the grand experience of several hurricanes. It’s funny how you react to those things. For the first storm, we followed all the precautions and had our little hurricane kit ready. By the time we went through our seventh or eighth, we hardly paid them any attention. But storms need to be heeded.

The sailors now know that Jonah is the cause of this storm. His God, Jehovah, has stirred up the waves and wind. So, naturally they assumed Jonah had the answer to quiet the storm. This God of Jonah’s could surely stop it as fast as He started it.

APPLICATION

God will allow storms in our lives to get our attention. How long those storms last depend on our response to Him. Have you been a storm a long time? Maybe you need to stop and look at what God is trying to teach you. Are the winds ripping at you every hour? Turn to Him and ask Him what it is He wants you to do.

There really isn’t any other way to respond to storms in our lives. Remember, everything that touches you as a child of God goes through His hands first. That storm that seems to never cease has passed through His approval. That may sound horrible, but it isn’t. Those storms are meant to drive you to your knees where you are the closest to Him.

It is so true in my life that I never feel as tall spiritually as I do when I’m on my knees. Prayer is like a fresh breath. It invigorates you and energizes you. And when I am in prayer during a storm, I feel His presence. I know He is right there with me. Join me.

I don’t like the storms, Lord, but I trust You in them. I know You have not lost sight of me even in the tallest waves.

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ANSWERED PRAYER

AMOS 7:6

“The LORD relented of this. ‘This too shall not be,’ said the Lord GOD.”

How do you see God answering prayers? I have seen Him answer them in all kinds of ways. I have seen people healed from illnesses. I have seen people come to Christ. I have even seen storms diverted. I know my God still answers prayers, even if I don’t always like the answer.

We saw this same action by God back in verse 3. God changed His mind then and changed it again here. He heard Amos cry out for Israel and withheld His hand of judgment again. What does this show about the Lord? I believe it shows He listens to us, even if we repeat ourselves. I believe it shows God’s mercy, even when we deserve judgment.

APPLICATION

God answered Amos’s prayers the same way. He withheld the planned and current judgment. He may answer your prayers in the same way. Then again, He may decide to answer it in a whole different way. The Lord knows what is best for us even when we don’t. We may think we know how we want Him to answer. We just don’t see what lies ahead.

I have prayed for healing for my children, protection on the road and even for our pets. There is really nothing I haven’t prayed for. In my years as a Pastor, I prayed for all kinds of family needs. What a joy to see so many of those prayers answered.

But the most joyous answered prayers are the ones for salvation. When I have the privilege to pray with someone as they accept Christ as their Savior, my heart overflows. That’s a prayer with eternal value. That’s a prayer that will last forever. I praise Him for hearing us and answering according to His Will for our lives and the lives of others.

I know You are still listening, Lord. I know You are working even now to answer my prayers.

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REPEATED PRAYERS

AMOS 7:5

“Then I said, ‘Lord GOD, please stop! How can Jacob stand? For he is small.’”

Have you ever prayed the same prayer over and over? I have been guilty of that. In fact, I am still guilty of that. Jesus taught us a lot about prayer. But He never said to stop praying. In fact, He instructs us just the opposite. We need to pray like the neighbor who would not give up until his friend came to the door to meet his need.

Amos repeats the almost exact prayer he prayed in verse 2, begging God to stop his judgment of Jacob. Amos didn’t hesitate to pray again. He had Jacob (Israel) on his heart and didn’t want to see them completely destroyed. We will see tomorrow God’s response. I wonder if it will be the same as in verse 3. Hmmm?

APPLICATION

Don’t hesitate to pray the same prayer. I have heard some people say you should just pray it once and then leave it in God’s hands. I can’t find that in Scripture anywhere. Nowhere does God say to stop praying. In fact, He says to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Grab ahold of the very throne of God and don’t let go. Pray every day until you get an answer. We should always pray according to His Will. And when we get our answer, we have to accept it. We trust God with the outcome.

I will continue to pray every day for my family and friends, my ministry and my health, my country and my church. That’s on my daily prayer list. I am not embarrassed to pray every day through that list. I will not cease to pray as He has directed me. I pray every day for the Lord to put a hedge of protection around my family. I have a couple of personal prayers that I pray every day. When God answers, I will stop praying for them. But until then…

O Precious Father, You hear my prayers, and for that, I am thankful. I know You will answer in Your time and according to Your Will. I trust You with that.

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THE LORD RELENTED

AMOS 7:3

“The LORD relented of this. ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.”

All my life I have been told that prayers can change things. I had always just accepted that as fact. I mean, why else should we pray? Yes, we acknowledge God as our Savior and Creator. We praise Him for who He is. We confess our sins to Him. And then we make our requests to Him. But why bother with that last step unless we believe we can change things with our prayers.

Amos cried out to God in verse 2, and it says in verse 3 that God relented. What does that mean? It means God changed His mind. Further punishment was withheld. God decided to not do what He had planned to do. Amos’ prayer moved God to change. Wow! Do you believe that is still possible?

APPLICATION

I believe with all my heart that is possible. I believe with all my heart that as I pray, submitting myself to His will, that He will hear my voice, bend His ear to earth and answer my prayer. Sometimes He says no. Sometimes He says not now. And other times He says yes.

I don’t know why He doesn’t always answer yes. I won’t know that until I am in heaven. But I am thankful for the times He does says yes. I don’t understand the mind of God. Who can? We have such finite minds. God works on a whole different realm than we do. I have to trust that.

I will, however, continue to pray, believing my prayers are being heard by the Creator of the universe. I may stir His heart as I pray and move Him to intercede in a way I had not even thought of. Based on that truth, I pray. I cry out like Amos. I am thankful that He is listening.

God, I cry out to You. I beseech You to move in my life and the lives of those who are reading this right now.

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SPECIAL VESSELS

AMOS 6:6

“Who drink wine from sacred bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest of oils — yet they have not grieved over the collapse of Joseph.”

I’ve got a favorite coffee mug. I’ve had it since 1982. Yep, that’s 40 years. I bought it at a pottery shop in N.C. It holds the heat of my coffee great. I love how it feels in my hand. I have no idea how it has survived this long, but I am careful to not drop it or crack it. I bet you have one too.

The problem Amos points out here again points to the idolatry the Israelites were practicing. They were using the sacred bowls of the temple, reserved only for use there, to drink from during their idol worship. They were possibly using the special oils reserved for the sacrifices on themselves because they smelled good. They were abusing God’s special items and didn’t seem to care. They showed the same lack of concern as Joseph’s brothers when they dumped him in that well.

APPLICATION

Let me give you an analogy right now. We are God’s holy vessels. 1 Corinthians 6:9 says so. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” As vessels of the Holy Spirit, we belong to God. But what do we do? We abuse these vessels.

I am as guilty as the next person of doing this. I eat things I shouldn’t eat. I don’t exercise like I should. I could do so much more to keep this vessel in good shape. But you can be the healthiest person in the world and still not be a holy vessel. Our holiness doesn’t come from our perfect physical condition. Our holiness only comes from complete surrender the Lord. That’s the kind of vessel He is desiring to use.

How do you become that kind of vessel? By spending time with Him. You have to pray and read His Word. You need to spend more time on your knees praying than doing pushups. You need to raise your hands in praise more than lifting weights. Yes, continue to treat your physical body with respect. But more importantly, exercise your spirit.

Forgive me, Lord, for not caring for this vessel better. Help me to realize just what I am “housing” as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

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IF IT AIN’T BROKE

AMOS 1:12

“‘So I will send fire upon Teman and it will consume the citadels of Bozrah.’”

On my last day of work at a children’s home in South Carolina, some little boys in a cottage set a fire in the basement of the cottage. I’m not sure why they did that. I think they were just playing with some matches, and it got carried away. That cottage suffered severe fire and water damage. I can still see the flames and smell the smoke. Those images don’t go away too quickly.

I bet these images which Amos is laying out for the Israelites got them so excited. Finally, Edom is going to pay for their atrocities against their nation. Finally, God is going to rain down fire on them. They will feel what the Israelites felt when the Edomites came and besieged their cities and set them on fire. Payback – Finally!

APPLICATION

God has spoken the same punishment on the other countries. Why doesn’t He change His tactics? Certainly, by now they are on to Him. God’s methods don’t need to change. In fact, one of His attributes is immutability. That means unchanging. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His purpose and plan remain the same.

So, why do we think we can change God? We pray and pray and expect God to change His mind. Listen, we do need to beseech God. We need to pray hard. We don’t know the mind of God. We don’t know what His perfect plan is. He is listening to our petitions. He inclines His ear towards us. But we have to pray trusting that His way is perfect – no matter what.

Do you trust Him? Do you trust Him with your life? He is able to maneuver through our prayers. Who knows – you may just stumble upon His will by praying. Does that sound crazy? Maybe it is, but I had rather be crazy and praying than crazy and not praying. How about you?

Lord, I will trust Your methods. I will allow You to work in me to perfect me according to Your plan.

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