Yesterday’s Scripture reading was the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three people who refused to worship anyone or anything other than the God of Israel. This angered King Nebuchadnezzar who had demanded that they worship a golden idol. The king commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be tossed into a white-hot furnace. Before falling headlong into the furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said,
“Great Ruler, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If you throw us into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to overcome the blaze and rescue us from your hand. But even if God does not rescue us, we want you to know, Great Ruler, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
I am always struck by the response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They trusted fully in God and at the same time did not require that God answer their prayer to be saved from torture and death. “Even if God does not rescue us …” they said, they would remain committed to God and take this stand with and for God, and with one another. To me, that is the ultimate form of living passionately for God, yet being “detached” from the outcome — leaving God free, as it were, to respond however God choose to respond. Too often we put conditions and qualifications and “buts” to our requests. We tell God what our desired outcome is and, if that outcome doesn’t happen, we might think that God does not hear us or answer our prayers.
Can we really pray and ask God to answer us and be open to however God responds? I think of Jesus himself in the garden of Gethsemane. He certainly had a desired outcome: he did not wish to be tortured and killed. But, and this is huge, more important than his own desire, he wanted what God wanted — whatever it turned out to be.
“Abba, if it’s your will, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
As we move towards Holy Week, let us ponder the words and faith of Jesus and of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What new or deeper understanding might we have of our prayers, our desires, and our faith in God?