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     The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1:1-2

     Dear heavenly Father, several scenarios, and dear friends, come to mind this morning as I meditate through this portion of your Word. First of all, I’m not as judgmental of Jonah as I used to be. Sometimes fleeing seems like the only option for survival; sometimes life feels like it’s demanding just a little too much; sometimes paying our own fare, to escape certain situations and expectations, seems worth the risk. Have mercy, Lord, on those boarded for Tarshish.

Father, for our chronically suffering friends—like the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5, who “suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” We pray for those with physical pain, beyond the reach of good medical relief; for those with emotional pain, who cannot imagine staying present or even alive; for those with mental pain, whose thoughts constantly create stories of paranoia, self-contempt and conspiracy. In light of the Day of perfect healing, bring the resurrection power of Jesus to bear now, we pray. And show us how to love, how to pray, how to serve.

Father, for our presently foolish friends—who like the younger brother in Luke 15, became numb to your goodness and affection, and demanded sensual fulfillment in a far away country. If need be, let them spend and be spent, until the only currency that has any value is the unspeakable, unsearchable riches of Jesus. Show them, and us, that every deep longing, every raging appetite, every unfilled dream has a good origin in you, but a deadly resolve apart from your will and grace. If crash and burn, will result in resurrection and hope, then bring your hard and healing providence to bear, Lord.

Father, for our vocational ministry friends—who, literally like Jonah, would rather risk anything than stay engaged in the often emotionally draining, mental-health-sucking, crazy-making world of ministry. We pray for those who serve in churches where your mercy and grace are offered to everybody but staff; for those who have elders and deacons that feel more like “drive-by-shooters”, than fellow servants of Jesus; for those who are now suffering the consequences of worshipping ministry idols; for those have been medicating in destructive ways and see Tarshish as the ONLY option; for those who have been through seasons of intense spiritual warfare.

Father, Jonahs and Jonettes, aren’t the only ones who run. Passionate, loving, merciful, grace-full Lord, hike up your long skirt again, and run after your sons and daughters, and show us how to run with you. Help us to live and to love as extensions of your welcoming and healing hand. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus merciful and mighty name.

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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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