Guest Author: Pastor Tyler Horton
I am concerned that much of our efforts at ‘Christian growth’ are as good as stomping on the gas pedal when there is nothing but fumes in the tank. What I mean is that we aim at improving our behaviour while we are ignoring our hearts. “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.” (Jonah 2:7, ESV)
The cause of Jonah’s prayer was that he first remembered the Lord. He did not pray because it was a line on his daily checklist or because it was a chosen ‘growth point’ or even a New Year’s resolution. He prayed because he was literally in the belly of the fish and was either going to be delivered or digested. And in his trouble he “remembered the Lord.” He remembered that he was not alone or cut off and that his God was both merciful and powerful. That he was in there because he had refused a mission of mercy from the Lord and that if God was ready to give Nineveh another chance, he may also be ready to give Jonah one. That God had but to speak the word to the fish and Jonah would be released. Once Jonah remembered these things, what else could he possibly do but call out to such a God?
Should we pray more and with more depth? Absolutely. But what I am suggesting is that instead of focusing our energy on turning the screws of discipline and habit because we are supposed to pray more, we should focus on energy on remembering the Lord and then see what happens. Assuredly we need discipline and habit but we also need more. When you discipline yourself to read your Bible, be sure that it is serving your remembering of the Lord. Do not be satisfied to set the table and see a wonderfully laid out truth. Feast upon it! The point of the discipline is to gain the nourishment. Nobody ever got fed by sitting at a well set table. So study your Bible not only until you see God, study until you get a fresh grip on Him. Take hold like a two year old in a toy store and refuse to let go.
Remember the Lord. Remember that He is powerful. That the shortest list in the world is the list of things that God is unable to do. That He can call out and call back a storm with greater authority than you can call your dog. Remember that He is merciful. That He sent a prophet to a city that hated Him so that He could offer them forgiveness. That even though Jonah did everything possible to disobey God, he was delivered and given another opportunity to obey. Remember that He is the “God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). Remember that if those who “pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love”, then those pay regard to the true God embrace their hope of steadfast love (Jonah 2:8). Remember that when God saw that Nineveh repented He “relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). Remember that He is “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 3:2). Remember now that when you pray your words actually come directly to Him in His holy temple. What else could you possibly do but call out to such a God?