This story is featured in a collection of Bible stories for kids called Pray without Ceasing: Bible Stories for Kids about Prayer.
Jonah was a prophet. God sent him to preach a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. Jonah tried to avoid this calling from God, but God would not let him.
As you read this story, pay attention to the way that Jonah prays to God from the belly of the whale.
Jonah heard the voice of the Lord say to him, “Go at once to Nineveh and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.”
Jonah was afraid to go to Nineveh. He tried to avoid God’s plan for him. He found a ship going in the opposite direction of Nineveh and paid the sailors to take him with them.
As the ship sailed away, however, God sent a great wind and a mighty storm upon the sea. The sailors were very afraid. They cried out prayers for help. Jonah went inside the ship and tried to go to sleep.
The sailors suspected that the storm was Jonah’s fault and confronted him about it. Jonah told them who he was and that he was fleeing from the Lord.
“What shall we do? How can we stop this storm now?” they said to the prophet.
Jonah looked out over the side of the boat. “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he said. “Then the storm will quiet down. This is all my fault.”
The men tried to row to safety, but there was no use. The storm was too strong. They prayed to the Lord for forgiveness and did as Jonah said. They picked him up and threw him into the water.
Suddenly the storm stopped and the waters were calm again. Jonah, however, was not safe. God sent a whale up out of the sea to swallow him.
Jonah remained alive in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. He realized his mistake, and he was grateful to be alive. Instead of getting angry with God, he thought about all that he could be thankful for.
“I called the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me,” he said. “The waters closed in over me, and my life is floating away. But I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to him. Those who worship anything other than God forsake their loyalty.”
Then he prayed, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will worship you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!”
The Lord heard this prayer of thanksgiving. He spoke to the whale, and it spit Jonah out onto the dry land.
The Lord told Jonah again to go forth to Nineveh. This time the prophet listened. He got up and set out for the great city to preach God’s message of repentance for forty days.
- What did Jonah say to God in prayer to show he was ready to be released from the belly of the whale?
- Is there anything God wants you to do right now that you are trying to avoid? What is it, and why are you afraid?
- What are some things you can be thankful for even when you are sad or afraid?
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