What is the Prayer of Azariah?


Prayer of Azariahaudio
Question: "What is the Prayer of Azariah?"

Answer:
The Prayer of Azariah is an apocryphal insertion of 22 verses into the biblical book of Daniel in the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament). The Prayer of Azariah was later included in the Latin Vulgate and as a result is today considered part of the biblical canon for the Roman Catholic Church.

The Prayer of Azariah is an expansion on Daniel 3 at the point where Daniel’s three friends refuse to bow down to the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar and are thrown into the fiery furnace. The three friends are most commonly known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, names they were given in Babylon. However, their Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Thus, Azariah is Abednego, one of the three who was thrown into the fiery furnace.

The Prayer of Azariah is inserted between Daniel 3:23 and 24 and records words supposedly spoken by Azariah while he and his two friends are in the fiery furnace. It has been translated as follows and included in the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (NRSVCE):

“They walked around in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord. Then Azariah stood still in the fire and prayed aloud:

‘Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise;
and glorious is your name forever!
For you are just in all you have done;
all your works are true and your ways right,
and all your judgments are true.
You have executed true judgments in all you have brought upon us
and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors;
by a true judgment you have brought all this upon us because of our sins.
For we have sinned and broken your law in turning away from you;
in all matters we have sinned grievously.
We have not obeyed your commandments,
we have not kept them or done what you have commanded us for our own good.
So all that you have brought upon us,
and all that you have done to us,
you have done by a true judgment.
You have handed us over to our enemies, lawless and hateful rebels,
and to an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world.
And now we cannot open our mouths;
we, your servants who worship you, have become a shame and a reproach.
For your name’s sake do not give us up forever,
and do not annul your covenant.
Do not withdraw your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham your beloved
and for the sake of your servant Isaac
and Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised
to multiply their descendants like the stars of heaven
and like the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any other nation,
and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins.
In our day we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense,
no place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.
Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted,
as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls,
or with tens of thousands of fat lambs;
such may our sacrifice be in your sight today,
and may we unreservedly follow you,
for no shame will come to those who trust in you.
And now with all our heart we follow you;
we fear you and seek your presence.
Do not put us to shame,
but deal with us in your patience
and in your abundant mercy.
Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.
Let all who do harm to your servants be put to shame;
let them be disgraced and deprived of all power,
and let their strength be broken.
Let them know that you alone are the Lord God,
glorious over the whole world.’”

Following the Prayer of Azariah in Catholic editions is another apocryphal addition called the Song of the Three Young Men, which is a hymn of praise to God. The Prayer of Azariah is a lament and a plea that God will forgive the nation of Israel for forsaking Him. The prayer for deliverance is for the nation rather than for Azariah and his friends. There is nothing unorthodox about the content of the prayer or the song that follows. The only reason that it is rejected by evangelical scholars is that they do not think it is an original part of the book of Daniel. There are no Hebrew manuscripts that contain the prayer, and Bruce Metzger, an expert on Greek and textual criticism, has found evidence that the Prayer of Azariah was originally composed in Greek, which would mean it is a later addition (see Bruce M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha, Oxford University Press, 1977).

Recommended Resource: The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce

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