Prayer in the Bible occurs in many locations for a variety of reasons. I have two personal favorites, perhaps because they are indelibly etched in my mind by Flannelgraph pictures I saw as a child. If you have never heard of Flannelgraph be sure to do an Internet search. It was once the medium of choice for elementary Sunday School teachers throughout the world. It was also a source of mischief for children who were left unattended.
Anyway, the two images burned in my memory are that of Jonah in the belly of a whale and Daniel in the lion’s den. I realize now the Bible doesn’t specifically say the creature that swallowed Jonah was a whale. But it also doesn’t say he had room to pray on his knees in the belly, or that there was a strange light that illuminated the stomach interior like a living room. The picture I remember of Daniel was a little more realistic, although the lions looked alike and my teacher always placed Daniel dangerously close to the lions for effect.
Both Jonah and Daniel prayed at a moment of crisis, one self-imposed and the other a result of injustice. Yet in the Flannelgraph pictures both men were calm with hands folded as they made their petitions known to God. Now I am inclined to think Jonah was a sloppy mess, unable to manage more than a strained whisper as his body fought against contractions in the belly. And I suspect Daniel prayed at a maximum distance from the lions. If God was good enough to shut their mouths why should he make himself any more appetizing?
Prayers in times of crisis were one of many occasions for God’s people to seek Him. Many came before Him broken by sin, desperate for divine mercy. Others came in times of celebration or to ask for guidance. The apostle Paul summed up the prayer life of believers in two words: “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And pray they did, anywhere the need or notion arose.