Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Heart, The Beginning and The End

For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant.  Do not take away your mercy from us.  This is the beginning of the the prayer of  Azariah from the middle of the fiery furnace, from which he was delivered.    He acknowledges God's Mercy.  He affirms the fact that he is in a covenant with the Lord as part of His people Israel.  He asks to be delivered from his present suffering.  Azariah's situation is acute, he is being put to death.  Thus he is praying when it matters most.  The beginning of his prayer is a good model for us to follow no matter in what situation we find ourselves praying.  His example is clear and is four fold.  Before looking at the first part, to better understand it, we should begin by looking at the second, third, and fourth part.  In the second part of this prayer Azariah clearly offers up his petition to the Lord. Thirdly he expresses his desire to remain always in relationship with the Lord.  Finally he relies on the Mercy of the Lord that remains with His people.  If only we prayed all of our own prayers with such confidence.  If only we could tell the Lord we trust in His solution.  Azariah simply asks to be delivered.  He does not tell the Lord how to deliver him.  He presents his need trusting in the Lord to answer in the most fitting way, The Lord's Way.  We are often busy in our prayers telling the Lord how things should work instead of abandoning ourselves and our prayers to His Loving Mercy and Providence.  If we could acknowledge, cultivate, and live in this relationship with our Lord on a daily basis, how much easier it would be to pray and trust.  But instead we run around living our lives and barely think of the Lord.  Often we see God as a Judge waiting to condemn us rather than save us.  We look to God only in our need, when we want something. We ignore the Truth of His Love that sustains us at every moment of every day.  Finally we are not mindful of His Mercy.  We expect condemnation and judgement because that's what the world has to offer.  We follow the ways of the world and its culture, the dominant culture, the culture of death.  Thus we know little of Mercy and Life.  Not so Azariah, not so.  He was placed in the fiery furnace specifically because he refused to participate in the worldly, dominant culture of death that existed in his day.  So what makes us different from Azariah?  The beginning and the end of Azariah's prayer is God.  He begins:  For your name’s sake, O Lord.  He ends: bring glory to your name, O Lord.  God is the center of Azariah's daily life.  God is the heart of his life.  His relationship to God  informs all that he does.  Thus he acknowledges the greatness of God first and foremost in his prayer.  God in His goodness, God in His Mercy, God in His Love, for His own sake, for His own Glory, for His own Beauty and Magnificence delivers Azariah.  Because of His own Greatness He calls His people into being and sustains them,  This is the order of All Things.  Azariah sees the beauty and wonder of this order with God at the Heart but also at the Beginning and the End of all things.  His prayer reflects this understanding.  Our prayers usually have ourselves at the beginning and the end.  Our wants, our desires, our wishes, our way, always take precedence.  We would do well to follow Azariah's example in life and in prayer, making God the Heart, the Beginning, and the End of all that we do.