Prayer inside the Belly of the Whale
“You are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind, and not punish.” Job 4:2b
- Volunteer to be “Jonah”
- Inflatable Whale created beforehand with Jonah’s prayer from Jonah 2:2-9 printed inside (large sheet plastic, duck tape, box fans, black lights, power strip, prayer printed via glow-in-the-dark markers on paper tapes to inner walls of whale, velcro to seal mouth entrance shut)
- CDs with Whale and storm sounds (digital downloads available from Amazon.com)
- CD player
- Index cards
- glow-in-the-dark markers
- DVD “Jonah: a Veggie Tales Movie” disc 2 “In the Belly of the Whale” music video (special features disc)
- TV, DVD player
- Read the Scripture passages prayerfully, asking God to show you what He has to say to you and to those He’s given you to teach.
- Read the Biblical Explanation and Background, and think about what concepts you need to teach.
- Prepare the necessary materials.
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
[Have CD playing outside room with storm sounds playing]
Meet the kids outside of the Discovery Destination room. Welcome them and tell them that this month they’ll be exploring the story of Jonah & the Whale. If it is past the first Sunday of this rotation, first ask the children to relate what they’ve already learned about Jonah in other workshops.
Say: Well we’ve heard about the story of Jonah and the Whale, but I think it would be pretty cool to experience the story of Jonah & the Whale from inside the belly of the whale! [Open door and encourage kids to enter the mouth of the whale.
Dig-Main Content and Reflection:
[As kids enter the whale have CD with whale sounds playing in the background on the CD player]
Hi kids, I’m Jonah, a prophet of God. Can someone tell me what a prophet is? (Someone who tells the future, a person who speak God’s message)
Very good. I see you all got swallowed by this whale too. The last time I was in here, I was here for 3 days! It’s pretty dark in here, so be careful, you never know what you might find inside the belly of a whale.
Let me tell you my story, the story of how I ended up in this whale in the first place.
One day, I was minding my own business, doing my daily chores and the Word of the Lord came to me. God said,” Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it, because of its wickedness.”
I got scared. I thought if I ran as far away as I possibly could, I wouldn’t have to preach to Ninevah. So I ran down to Joppa where I bought a ticket to get on a boat heading to Tarshish. Once we got out to sea, God sent a big wind and storm that nearly broke the ship. The sailors on board were scared and threw all the supplies off the ship, hoping it wouldn’t sink.
I had gone below deck and had fallen asleep, that was until the captain woke me up and told to call upon my God to save them.
The sailors wanted to know who was responsible for all the trouble the ship was in and they casted lots, which is like drawing straws, to see who was responsible. Of course, I drew the short straw. I explained to them that I was a Hebrew and my God, the God of the sea and the land, was mad at me for not doing as He told me. I told them, the only way to save the ship was to throw me overboard.
However, they didn’t want to throw me into the sea. They tried rowing back to shore, but the winds were too strong. They finally realized they needed to throw me into the sea. They said they were sorry and they prayed to God not to punish them for doing so.
God saved the sailors, but He also saved me. Once I was in the waters, God sent this whale and it swallowed me. I was in the whale’s belly for 3 days and 3 nights! I had a lot of time to think about what I had done. I realized that God was giving me a second chance. I prayed and prayed and thanked the Lord, God. I knew that if God saved me, I would go right to Ninevah and speak God’s word. So God had this whale throw me up on the beach.
God sent His word to me again, and I spoke it to the people of Ninevah. I told them that God was going to destroy them in 40 days because they were doing bad things. The people of Ninevah believed the message of God. The King told all the people to wear sackcloth and put ashes on their foreheads and to fast. The people did these things and stopped doing the evil things that they were doing. And God noticed.
At the end of the 40 days, God had compassion upon the people and did not destroy them. I was mad! I went through so much to tell them that they were going to be destroyed, then God didn’t destroy them. I was so upset, that I wanted to just give up. God, however, showed me that I didn’t have the right to be angry and that He loves His people enough to take care of them, have compassion and forgiveness, and to help them grow.
That’s my story. It took God’s love and patience to teach me how He loves all of His people, that He can be slow to anger and show forgiveness and not destroy His people.
Prayer in the Belly of the Whale
- Do you think it was kind of scary for Jonah to be thrown overboard into the stormy seas?
- How do you think Jonah felt when he was swallowed by the whale? Would you have been scared if you had been in Jonah’s shoes? Why or why not?
- Have you ever been in a scary situation before? Tell me about it? What was it like? What did you do?
- Jonah was in a scary situation when he was tossed into the stormy sea and swallowed by the whale. The Bible says that while Jonah was in the belly of the whale, he prayed to God. Jonah’s prayer is recorded in Jonah 2:2-9, but we have his words surrounding us right here in the belly of the whale. [Lead the class in reading Jonah’s prayer together.]
- When Jonah was scared in the belly of the whale, he prayed to God for help. Have you ever prayed to God for help? [Let kids respond, then briefly tell of a time when you, the teacher, prayed to God in a difficult situation.]
- What are some things that Jonah said in his prayer to God?
- Jonah talks about his feelings of nearly drowning.
- Vs. 6 Jonah proclaims that God brought his life up out of the pit i.e. God saved him.
- Jonah affirms that God heard his prayer.
- Jonah says that following other gods/”idols” will not help, but that God alone saves.
Say: Jonah teaches us that even when we are in a scary place, like the belly of a whale, we can turn to God in prayer, and that God will be with us, strengthen us, and bring us through the tough times.
Today, I want to give you a chance to pray to God. You can either ask God for help with a tough situation that you or your family are going through right now, or say prayer of thanks to God. I’m going to give you glow-in-the-dark markers and paper, and you’ll have time, just like Jonah did, to pray to God right here in the belly of the whale. [Distribute index cards and markers. Give kids a chance to write their own prayers to God.]
[After kids are finished, share with them what prayer you’ve written down and ask if anyone wants to share their prayers. Allow kids a chance to share if they want to. Return to Jonah’s prayer and re-read the first verse with them. ]
As a fun interlude activity, watch the Newsboys music video “In the Belly of the Whale” which is included on the special features disc of the Veggie Tales "Jonah" DVD.
End class by reviewing this month’s Bible memory verse and then close with prayer.
A lesson written by Rev. Ron Shifley from: Scotland UCC
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