Teach Us to Pray (Jonah 1:4-16)

Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you. Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
— Jonah 1:13

Each week we include a prayer of confession in our worship together. It’s a safe moment where we all admit that something has not gone right in the world and we are, in some way, responsible for it. It’s not a moment of community shaming, it’s quite the opposite – a moment of connection to each other that fosters compassion and empathy. When Jonah confesses to the crew that he’s to blame for their trouble, they don’t turn on him. The crew first tries their best to row back to land, and when that doesn’t work they reluctantly do what he asks and throws him into the sea. The crew is an unlikely conveyor of mercy in Jonah’s confession. Instead of hypocritically pointing their own judgmental finger, they journey with him through confession and find themselves closer to God in the process – through solidarity with Jonah by rowing more, through struggle with God about their upcoming actions, and through acceptance marked by sacrifice (Jonah 1:16).

As you pray this week, make space to both confess and become an empathetic receiver of those confessing around you. A great place to begin is our confession from Sunday based on Psalm 139:

O LORD, all knowing, most wise God!
Our Father,
you have searched me and known me.
You have looked into the deepest desires of my heart.
You know my secret loyalties as well as my hesitations.
You know my doubts and my reservations.
All knowing and still all loving Father,
have mercy on us,
for we have gotten confused.
We love you and we love your ways,
yet we have loved this world, too.
O LORD, our Father,
have mercy on us.
We have been wayward.
We have fled your presence.
We have even made our bed in Hell,
and somehow you discovered us there, too.
All knowing and still all loving Father,
have mercy on us.
O LORD, all knowing, most wise God.
Our Father, have mercy on us!
Grant to us purity of heart.
Focus our erratic desires.
Unite us in Christ.
Grant that in him we may find integrity,
that our hearts may be yours and yours alone.
To Christ, our Savior, then,
be all praise, all honor and glory,
together with you, O Father and the Holy Spirit.
One God, now and evermore. Amen.

About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC