God’s Dumb Children

God has no dumb children.

I have read that sentence multiple times in the past few weeks. Each time, the author tried to inform me that prayer proves the legitimacy of one’s claim to be a child of God. Just as it is natural for children to cry out to their earthly parents for help in times of need, prayer ought to be second nature to the Christian who calls God Father. One who truly knows God as Father will call upon him. But there are times when the Christian does not pray, periods when God’s children become dumb. I certainly find this to be true in the case of the Old Testament prophet Jonah.

The first chapter of the book of Jonah records the prophet’s disobedience to God’s command. Jonah had been instructed to preach to the Ninevites, and he didn’t like the idea. Instead of going to Nineveh as he had been directed by God, he attempted to flee to Tarshish. This was a nationally renowned prophet, one who was known by everyone in Israel for his prophetic ministry. In the past, the same prophet had spoken of Israel’s recovery of lost land, which came to pass (cf. 2 Kings 14:23-25). He was not a false prophet. He was a tried and tested prophet of God.

I find this detail very fascinating. It is no surprise to read of ordinary Israelites disobeying God. It is always shocking when I read of the fall of a great man. This is because I find it easy to think too highly of men. I admit that I am somewhat of a hero worshipper. And that’s why Jonah’s disobedience shocks me. He was a national prophet. He was known and respected among God’s people. I can imagine him being a hero to the nation of Israel. Yet, he disobeys God’s instruction.

Jonah’s refusal to repent in first chapter of the book also surprises me. It probably shouldn’t, but it does. God, in response to his prophet’s disobedience, sent a storm to disturb his peace. Jonah was asleep when this tempest broke out. While the sailors were afraid and were praying to their gods, Jonah was fast asleep in the inner part of the ship. He was aroused from his slumber by the captain of the ship and urged to pray. But he did not pray. At this moment, God’s prophet had become dumb.

Jonah doesn’t pray. He sees these idol worshippers calling upon their idols. He sees these pagan sailors offering prayers to their gods. But he, whose God, according to him, made the sea and the dry land, couldn’t find the words to address his God with. God’s spokesman could no longer speak to God. He had been struck with dumbness. And the reason for this is simple. Sin had stolen his voice in prayer.

How could he cry out for deliverance when he had not repented from his rebellion? How could he call upon God when he was living in unconfessed sin? That’s why Jonah couldn’t pray. Sin had broken into his camp. It is just like the Puritan John Bunyan said: “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” In Jonah’s case, sin had enticed him to cease from prayer.

No man can truly pray while he is living in unrepented sin.

I don’t find this to be too far from my own experience. Prayer is always difficult when there is unconfessed sin. There are really no words to address God with when one is in sin. Of course, one could go through the motions and pray for praying sake. One could even put up a show for others, fooling them with one’s command of the English language and of Scripture. But no man can truly pray while he is living in unrepented sin.

Can we call God our Father while we disobey him? Can we address him as our King while we openly disregard his decrees? Can we truly say that we delight in him while we treasure our sins more than him? This is why Jonah doesn’t pray. This is why he couldn’t pray. While God truly has no dumb children, God’s children inflict dumbness upon themselves when they refuse to repent from their sins and return to God.

Sin will affect our relationship with God. This is why we must make it a habit to repent and confess our sins. This is why we must make repentance a lifestyle. The Bible does tell us that God’s children will sin, but it doesn’t tell us that they will remain in their sins. They will confess their sins. They will repent from their sins. They will forsake their sins. They will look to the cross in faith and seek for covenant mercies. Nothing else will do.

Jonah eventually repented from his sin, and he found his voice in prayer (Jonah 2). But it took God’s discipline to get his attention. God will always hear the cry of the truly penitent. Let us then turn to him in repentance and faith. God has no dumb children.

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