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The Everyday Prayer

printable version

Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Daniel 3,14-20.46-50.91-92.95

Nebuchadnezzar addressed them, 'Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have set up? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, zither, harp, bagpipe and every other kind of instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you will be thrown forthwith into the burning fiery furnace; then which of the gods could save you from my power?' Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, 'Your question needs no answer from us: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, Your Majesty, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have set up.' This infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was changed now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace. All this time, the king's servants, who had thrown them into the furnace, had been stoking it with crude oil, pitch, tow and brushwood until the flames rose forty-nine cubits above the furnace and, leaping out, burnt those Chaldaeans to death who were standing round it. But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace beside Azariah and his companions; he drove the flames of the fire outwards from the furnace and, in the heart of the furnace, wafted a coolness to them as of the breeze and dew, so that the fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress. King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, 'Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?' They answered the king, 'Certainly, Your Majesty'. 'But', he went on, 'I can see four men walking free in the heart of the fire and quite unharmed! And the fourth looks like a child of the gods!' 'Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego: he has sent his angel to rescue his servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their God.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The third chapter of the book of Daniel tells of a golden statue that king Nebuchadnezzar had have built so that all the subjects of his realm would worship it. But some Jews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who came from Judea after the destruction of Jerusalem, refused to worship the statue, which they considered an idol. Consequently they are thrown into a burning furnace, from which first Azariah and then all three young men address to the Lord the two canticles we find in the third chapter of Daniel. The words of Azariah are close to those of the psalms. He does not start by complaining, as could easily be imagined in a situation as difficult as this one. Instead he first blessed the Lord, whose justice he proclaims. Azariah does not claim anything; he does not proclaim his innocence. On the contrary, he recognizes his sin and the sin of his people, but it is precisely for this reason that he invokes God’s mercy: "For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you, and we have done every kind of evil." Building on his awareness of his sin, Azariah opens his mouth with an invocation of the Lord’s mercy: "For your name’s sake, do not give us up forever, and do not annul your covenant. Do not withdraw your mercy from us." Azariah invokes divine mercy for a people reduced to slavery, completely deprived of liberty, and for people who are near death. In the midst of a trial, the believer turns to the Lord confident that he will be heard. It is the power of prayer, which frees us from death and gives us the freedom to sing of God’s glory. In front of a world that seems to condemn so many men and women deprived of all liberty and under the domination of violence to the pits of the abyss, let us also turn to the Lord in prayer, confident that he will listen to his children. From the burning furnace, the three young men sing God’s praise. We have before us something like the canticle of the creatures, the song through which Francis of Assisi tried to join with the whole of creation in giving glory to God the creator. Similar to Psalm 104, the person of faith turns to the Lord, and while he celebrates his greatness, he recognizes that God has saved him from death. Praise liberates the heart and allows a man or woman to take part in creation and in the very work of the Creator. When the Lord had finished his work, as is told at the beginning of the second chapter of the book of Genesis, the Lord established the Sabbath, blessed it, and consecrated it, so that by praising him humanity could take part in the work of creation. Without the Sabbath, the day in which humanity praises God, creation does not reach its fulfilment. In the grip of death and danger, we turn to the Lord, we praise the wonders he has performed, and in doing so we can already taste freedom and salvation. The chorus, which the three young men invite us to repeat, "praise and exalt him above all forever," unites us to all of creation so that with it we can recognize the greatness of God’s mercy. "Bless," the hymn repeats at the beginning of every verse. Prayer is first of all a blessing that allows us to participate in the divine life, preserves us from the curse of a life far from the Lord. "Bless" is an invitation to place ourselves in the horizon of the world starting with God. No created thing is foreign to us, because everything is born of God. And we become responsible for the whole of creation. In the last verses, all men and women are included in this universal canticle: "All you mortals, bless the Lord." The three young men also urge Israel, the priests, the spirits, the souls of the just, the servants of the Lord, and the holy and humble of heart all to praise the Lord. Prayer of praise to God frees us all from the little world of our particular tasks and puts us in communion with all living creatures. In prayer, we retrace God’s work of creation, so that with all creatures we can sign God’s mercy. Indeed, God’s "mercy" endures for every. This is the discovery of the person who prays and who, even in the abyss and when faced with looming evil, does not stop singing God’s praise.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets