“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.” Jonah 2:7

This is part of Jonah’s prayer from inside the fish. Previously, he said, “I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever” (verse 6, The Message). It reminds me of the opening lines of the poem, The Great Mercy by Katharine Tynan:

Betwixt the saddle and the ground
Was mercy sought and mercy found.
Yea, in the twinkling of an eye,
He cried; and Thou hast heard his cry.

It only takes a “twinkling of an eye” to cry out to the Lord, only the briefest passage of time to acknowledge God. The thief on the cross said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42) and received God’s assurance of eternal life. At the first glance of his prodigal son, the father ran. God is so eager to cover us with his mercy that it may be in the last instant of a person’s life that they discover the awesome and sudden mercy of God. We’ll never know this side of heaven who cried out to God in their dying moments.

For Jonah, his cry led to the return of his physical life yet he’s expressing his praise even before he finds himself on dry land. His relationship with God had been restored and he wants to shout with “grateful praise” (verses 9-10). A restored relationship with God is more precious than the continuance of physical life.

It’s a shame to wait to the point of death to cry out to God when he’s always willing to bestow his mercy.