Jonah was displeased and became very angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." And the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east win, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live."
But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." Then the Lord said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial."
Today's first reading reflects the balance between principles and their application, just as yesterday's Gospel linked the contrasting examples of contemplation (Mary) and activism (Martha).
We have already seen a glaring paradox in Jonah's outlook. This prophet who claimed to worship the Lord who made the sea and the dry land seeks to flee from the Lord by taking a long sea voyage. Today's paradox is even more poignant. Jonah would know that God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness" . This made him unwilling to preach repentance in the name of such a God, who would have compassion on the enemy nation, the people of Nineveh. He cannot abide the idea of Israel's enemies becoming the object of God's compassion. Jonah is willing to bypass Nineveh and leave it to destruction, but he becomes angry when God fails to save the gourd plant. The selfish prophet thinks God must show compassion on this little tree, that shades Jonah from the fierce sun and burning east wind. God's reply blends a good lesson with whimsical concern: You are concerned for the plant… Should I not be concerned for Nineveh, with all its inhabitants?
Jesus was in a certain place, praying. His prayer evokes the desire to pray in the heart of one of his disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray." We can all identify with that request, for we recognize our need of a wise guide when it comes to prayer. In response to that request, Jesus gives a lesson on how to petition God. The prayer of listening is one form of prayer; the prayer of petition is another. We all feel the need to ask God for something from time to time. Jesus' teaching suggests that our prayer of petition should focus first on what God wants, "your name be held holy, your kingdom come."
All our requests are subject to that fundamental request that God's kingdom would come and God's will be done among us. Then Jesus suggests what it is we really need as his followers and, therefore, need to ask for -- forgiveness for our sins, sustenance for the day, God's help when our faith is put to the test. Those petitions are to take priority over all others, and, by implication, all other petitions are in some way to derive from those fundamental ones.