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Tips on Prayer (by Daniel E. Harmon)

Beginning in the Garden of Eden, our direct communication with God was destroyed because of sin. As a result, people must experience life without a direct relationship with our Creator. But there is one lifeline as a Christian: Prayer. Prayer is the outward manifestation of the inward spirituality. When we pray, we thank God for His strength and guidance in our lives and request God to answer problems very important to us.

There is one verse that comes to mind when I think of prayer—Daniel 9:3 -“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” In that one verse, Daniel lays out a few important tips in praying.

Although space permits writing out all of Daniel Chapter 9, Daniel began his prayer by thanking God. God had already given Daniel the answers to many other problems he had asked of Him. Daniel didn’t begin his prayer by requesting anything of God; Daniel began his prayer by worshipping God. After all, isn’t there a lot we have to be thankful for? Before we “petition” God, we should also ask forgiveness for our sins. Although as Christians we have already received Christ’s grace to cleanse us of all of our sins, responsibly we must accept ownership of our sins.

When I think of a petition, I think of a request for someone to take action on an issue. It isn’t a command to act a certain way, but a request to consider something. When we petition God, we should be asking for guidance and direction on our problem. We should not tell God what we think the outcome should be. We should plead to God for His answer. Since we always believe we are on the right path, only God knows whether we are on the correct path.

Prayer does not always include a “petition.” God is our Creator, and also our friend. We should go to God daily, whether we have a problem or just want to share the good happenings in our lives. Like friends, we should include God on the good things in our lives, not just the problems.

When most people hear of “fasting,” they think about giving up something. In the Bible, people gave up food to meditate on God for His answers. By giving up something, we are forced to lean on God for strength. Food represents what we physically need to remain alive. In the present day, there are many things we could give up besides food to show we have faith in God to answer our problems. We spend time watching television, or listening to music, or enjoying the company of our friends. Do we spend enough time with God, meditating on His word? Could we give up something?

When Daniel went to God in prayer, he literally wore “sackcloth and ashes.” While we are not required to pray in old clothes and without showering, we should understand the meaning. Wearing sackcloth and ashes represents humility towards God. We are the created beings, while God is the Creator. We must remember God has placed us in our problems to teach certain lessons. Only through being humble can we seek His answers.

In this world disconnected from God, prayer is our direct communication to our Creator. As we pray today, I hope we remember how Daniel went to God in prayer.