Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Where’s Jonah?
Lesson 2: In the Bottom of a Boat, Praying


Coloring Page

Author’s Notes:   Last week we began a new series of lessons on the book of Jonah.  We left Jonah securely in the belly of a great fish, where we’ll find him this week, praying.  The second chapter of the book of Jonah is devoted entirely to Jonah’s prayer.  So in this week’s lesson, we’ll be looking closely at the subject of prayer.  We will discuss what prayer is, and what examples, including Jonah’s, we might learn from to help in our own prayer time.

Opening comments/story:

[If you can find a “Where’s Waldo” picture, bring it with you to show the class.  If time permits, allow them some time to find Waldo.  You may wish to do this at the beginning of each lesson in this series.]  

If you were with us last week, you may remember that we talked about an artist named Martin Handford.  He creates pictures with crowds of people or lots of colorful objects.  Then somewhere in the picture he includes Waldo.  Waldo’s fans easily recognize him with his telltale red and white striped shirt, large round glasses, brown wavy hair, and knitted cap. But just because they can recognize Waldo doesn’t mean that they can easily find him in the pictures.  Mr. Handford cleverly hides him in pictures with lots of other people, many of whom are wearing similar clothes; or behind objects that carefully conceal part of him, while leaving enough visible to identify him.

We mentioned last week that there’s only one person who never has trouble finding Waldo in the “Where’s Waldo” pictures.  Do you remember who that was?  It was the artist, Mr. Handford; the one who puts Waldo in the pictures.

And that’s the way it was for Jonah, too.  Like Waldo, Jonah tried to hide, too.  Except he tried to run away from God, and hide.  Does anyone remember why Jonah tried to hide from God?  God had asked him to go preach to the wicked city of Nineveh, the enemy of Israel.  Jonah was afraid that if he did, the Ninevites would repent, and God would forgive them.  And that was the last thing Jonah wanted to see happen.  So rather than obey, Jonah got on ship going in the opposite direction.  But Jonah soon learned that there really isn’t any place we can go where God isn’t already there.

God prepared a storm that ultimately resulted in Jonah being thrown into the sea.  But whether he was in the bottom of the ship, or sinking in the sea, God still was able to look at the picture that Jonah was in, and knew right where to find him.  And not only did God know where to find Jonah, He was also prepared to rescue him.  But perhaps not in the way Jonah might have hoped.

Does anyone remember what God sent to rescue Jonah from drowning in the sea?  God sent a great fish that He had prepared to swallow Jonah whole.  And that’s where we left Jonah at the end of our last lesson…sitting in the belly of a giant fish.  He would spend three days and three nights, there.  So what do you suppose he was doing all that time?  In today’s lesson, we’re going to see that he made good use of the time.  He spent it praying to God.

We’re going to take a close look at Jonah’s prayer, in just a moment.    But before we do, let’s learn this week’s memory verse.   It’s another good lesson on prayer; reminding us that we never need to worry or be anxious about anything.  Instead, we can bring all of our concerns to our Heavenly Father, in prayer; just as Jonah did.  And when we do, we need to remember to include a time of thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done for us. 

Memory verse:  (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves.  And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their heartsYou can also print the verse out on pieces of paper, perhaps shaped like fish.  Each piece could have a single word, or a phrase.  Place the pieces of paper on a table or the floor so that the words of the verse are in proper order.  Then have the students take turns removing pieces, repeating the verse each time another piece is removed.  By the time they’re all gone, the students should be able to remember the verse.)

“Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6


Opening prayer:  Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today.   And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us.  Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn.  Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words.  Amen.

This Week’s LessonJonah prays while inside the fish (Jonah 2)

At the end of our last lesson, we left Jonah wallowing in the belly of a big, smelly fish.  What do you think it would be like, in there?  It was probably very dark.  Not only was he inside the fish, but he was also down in the water.  So even if it was the middle of the day, he probably saw nothing but blackness.  And maybe that was for the best.  No doubt the fish had eaten other things, perhaps from earlier that day; or maybe from days before.  And the sight might have been more than Jonah could handle.

The smell was likely to have been unbearable, too, with the fish’s gastric juices digesting the other things it had swallowed.  And can you imagine the sorts of sounds you might hear, as other animals swim by in the sea; and the fish, itself, working to digest the food in its stomach.  It would not have been a pleasant place to be!  But it was God’s idea of the best rescue for Jonah.

We’re not told how long it took Jonah to also recognize this.  But at some point, Jonah did come to understand just what the Lord had done for him.  And we can find his response in Jonah chapter 2.  It is Jonah’s prayer from inside the fish’s belly.

We’ll read the entire prayer, first.  Then we will go back and look at what we can learn through Jonah’s prayer.  These are the words that came from the belly of the fish:

(Jonah 2)
1Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
2And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
3For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
4Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
5The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
6I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
7When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
8They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
9But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
(where to pray)

What is prayer?  Prayer is simply talking to God.  We don’t have to be any place special to talk with God.   We don’t even have to say the words out loud.  God can hear us talking to Him when we’re in the belly of a fish, or in our bedroom at home.  He can hear us when we’re at the playground, in school, or sitting in a church service.  We see in verse 1 of Jonah chapter 2 that Jonah prayed from right where he was, inside a fish in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Fortunately for us, we don’t have to go to the Mediterranean Sea for the Lord to hear us pray.  He can hear us right where we are, no matter where that may be; because no matter where we are, God is there, and can hear our voices, and our hearts.  He’s always waiting for us to come and talk to Him; to share the things on our hearts with Him. 

(when to pray)

And we don’t have to wait until we’re in a tough situation to talk to God, either.  He’s our Heavenly Father, and likes to have us come to Him just to spend time with Him.  But He’s always ready to hear about our trials, too.  And that’s how Jonah came to Him.  Jonah was in a pretty desperate situation, and needed some help from the Lord.  And we’ll find in the last verse of this chapter that the Lord was ready to step in and help Jonah.

Sometimes people feel like they might be bothering God with all of the problems in their lives.  But God tells us in His Word that we are supposed to be “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)  God wants us to understand that He’s there for us, no matter what we’re going through.  There just isn’t any wrong time to pray. 

According to verse 2, Jonah prayed in the middle of his affliction.  Is there anything bothering you, today, that you would like to bring to the Lord?  You can do that today, even right now.  God can hear the words in your heart, and is already at work, answering your prayer. 

(what to pray)

So how do we know what we should say when we talk to the God of the universe?  Jonah’s prayer is a great example of what we can say when we pray, especially in times of great distress when we might not be able to find the right words.  When we take a close look at most of Jonah’s prayer, he has taken words right from God’s own Word.  Let’s look at a couple of verse from Psalms, to see how they compare with what Jonah prayed.

Listen to the words of Psalm 42:7:  “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”  Now listen, again, to what Jonah prayed in Jonah 2:3 “thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” 

Here’s another example.  Psalm 18:6 says this: In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”  Then listen to Jonah’s words in Jonah 2:7 “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”

As Jonah prayed, he was recalling scripture verses he had memorized.  He knew that David had written these words when he was in trouble.  And he also knew that the Lord had faithfully rescued David many times.  In using words from scripture, Jonah was reminding God of how He had helped others, in the past.  And Jonah was reminding himself of what an awesome and faithful God he served.

When we come to the Lord, but can’t seem to find the right words to pray, we can do the same thing that Jonah did – we can pray words of scripture.  And we have so much more scripture, now, to base our prayers on. We have both the Old and New Testaments!  That’s one great reason for learning our memory verses.  They are words that we can recall when we’re praying to the Lord.  That way, we are praying God’s own words right back to Him.  And we can know that He will respond, when we bring those words back to Him with humble hearts.

So now that we know that we can pray anywhere, and any time; and we know that if we can’t find the right words, we can just use the ones we know from the Bible… what can we learn from Jonah about how to pray?

(how to pray)

Jonah teaches us two very important things to remember when it comes to how we should pray.  The first is in the second verse of today’s passage.  Let me read it to you again.  And see if you can tell me how Jonah prayed.

 2And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

There’s a word that’s used twice in this verse that tells us how Jonah spoke when he was praying to the Lord.  It’s the word “cried.”  One thing the Lord is looking and listening for when we come to Him in prayer is sincerity.  Now the word “cry” here doesn’t necessarily mean that Jonah had tears coming down his face.  It just means that the words came right from his heart!  He felt what he was saying so strongly that it gave a great intensity to the words.   

That’s what the Lord wants from us when we’re praying, too.  He doesn’t just want to hear words we’ve memorized and said over and over again.  He doesn’t want us to just repeat things that we’ve heard others pray, without really taking them to heart.  God wants our prayers to be right from our own hearts.  He wants sincerity, and meaning in the words we pray. 

Do you like to hear the words “I love you?”  If you do, does it make a difference how the words are said?  Yes, it does!  We can tell when another person is being sincere, and when they’re just saying something they think we want to hear.  Hearing the words “I love you” being said with no emotion doesn’t do a thing for our hearts.  But when someone says those same little words, and truly means them… it can brighten our whole day.

That’s the way it is for God, too.  He knows the reason behind the things we say.  And when we come to Him, crying out like Jonah did with sincerity and love in our hearts, those are the prayers that touch His heart, and move Him to want to help us.

And one last thing we can learn about how to pray comes from the end of Jonah’s prayer.  We can also find it in our memory verse.  And that is praying with thanksgiving.  Listen to the conclusion of Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2.

9But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

Even though he was still in the stinky belly of the fish, by the time Jonah was nearing the end of his prayer, he was ready and able to include words of thanksgiving to the Lord.  Verse 7 tells us that after careful consideration of all that he had been through, and after recalling words from the psalmist David who had suffered through many of the same things that were troubling Jonah, that Jonah finally remembered the Lord:

 7When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

When Jonah finally remembered the Lord, it was with words of thanksgiving and praise to the God that he knew could see him.  And it was the same God who could also rescue him, just as He had rescued David, and so many others in the past.  Jonah’s eyes were finally able to move away from the horrible circumstances around him, and up to the God who knew exactly where to find him…praying in the belly of that fish.

(God’s response)

And does anyone know how God responded to Jonah’s prayer.  The final verse of Jonah chapter 2 tells us.
10And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

God’s solution to Jonah’s predicament may not have been pleasant; after all, can you imagine being thrown up by a fish?!  But it was effective.  God answered Jonah’s heartfelt prayer.  He had that fish bring Jonah right back to where he started, dry land.  God intended to give Jonah a second chance at obeying His word.  And we’re going to see next week what Jonah does with that second chance.

Closing Comments:
But as we bring this week’s lesson to a close, there’s one more thing we should consider about prayer before we head home.  Psalm 66:18 says this:  “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”  That means if we have any sin in our hearts that we have not confessed to the Lord, that we will be wasting our breath praying to Him, until we get that sin taken care of.  Not only will He not answer the prayers of someone who is still living in sin, God’s Word says He won’t even hear them pray. 

Is there some need in your life that you are hoping the Lord will answer?  Then you need to first be sure that the Lord will hear your prayer.  If you have any sins you haven’t confessed to Him, take care of those first.  And then, don’t forget to include a time of thanksgiving for all that the Lord has already done for you; and what He’s going to do when He answers your prayer.

Closing Prayer:   Heavenly Father, thank You for being a God who invites us to come to You in prayer.  And thank You for Your Word that tells us we can cast all of our cares upon You.  You are truly a God of love and grace.  And we just praise You today for the way You continue to show Your love to us.  Remind us, Lord, if there’s any sin standing between us, so we can confess that sin and have our hearts right before You.  For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Activity:  (Review Questions)

Fill in the Blanks

  1. Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish.
  2. Many of the words Jonah prayed came from psalms written by David.
  3. When Jonah prayed, he cried out to the Lord, from his heart.
  4. Jonah included words of praise and thanksgiving in his prayer.
  5. God will not hear us pray if we have unconfessed sin in our hearts.

  True or False
1. God could not hear Jonah from inside the fish’s belly.  (false – God heard Jonah’s prayer)
2. Jonah recalled words from the Psalms as he was praying.  (true)
3. When we pray, the only thing we need to include is our request.  (false – should be with thanksgiving)
4. God can only hear us pray when we’re at church.  (false – God can hear us anywhere)
5. We need to confess the sin in our hearts so the Lord will hear our prayers.  (true)


Lisa DeVinney