“He … cast them into the white-hot furnace.” (Daniel 3:20)

If we just look at the basic story outline of this tale of Daniel and the fiery furnace, we could easily get lost in the excitement. Nebuchadnezzar is king of almost the entire known world. He commands everyone in his kingdom to worship his statue—and only three men refuse. They assert that only Yahweh, the God of Israel, is worthy of worship and adoration. Nebuchadnezzar has these three men thrown alive into a blazing hot fur­nace—yet they come out alive and win the respect of the king. What could be more compelling?

While the courage of Shadrach and his companions is astound­ing, there’s something even more amazing here. That is the closeness with God that we see in Azariah’s (Abednego’s) prayer when he enters the furnace. First he humbly acknowledges that his people have strayed from God. But then he pro­claims his confidence in God’s mercy and asks God to deliver them so that the king would know that “you alone are the Lord God.” (Daniel 3:29,43-45).

It’s important to see that God didn’t automatically pluck these three from the fire. His action was an answer to Azariah’s prayer—the prayer of someone in close relation­ship to him, someone who could admit his weakness yet also under­stood that God loved him and would honor the covenant he had made with his children.

This is a valuable lesson for us. God wants us to trust him enough to believe that he is with us— even when we find ourselves in a “furnace”!

A good exercise for prayer today might be to meditate on Azariah’s prayer (Daniel 3:26-45). See how it applies to your own life and the chal­lenges facing you right now. Proclaim that God cares for you no less than he did these three men. Sit in his presence, and let the fact of his unconditional love sink in. Then read the extended prayer of praise that comes from Azariah and his compan­ions—and join in with it (3:52-90). You have so many reasons to be thankful—so let God know about it!

“Lord, I will bless your name at all times, for your love is greater than any situation I am facing. I thank you for all you’ve done in my life—and all you are going to do!”

(Psalm) Daniel 3:52-56; John 8:31-42