I was taught to pray as a child, but it wasn't until I went to college and lived on my own that I began to understand the importance of daily prayer. When I became a parent, I realized how clueless I was and prayer became even more important. Now my pattern of personal prayer throughout the day sustains me, lifting me up when challenges arise and helping me remember to thank God for the goodness in my life. If you want to make personal prayer a part of your daily life, here are seven ways to help you connect with God. If you're not sure of your relationship with God, you can begin with meditating or simply speaking to a higher power you hope is there.

Start the day with prayer

Starting the day with prayer is essential. The days I forget to do this I feel out of sorts. In fact, if my day's begun and I haven't prayed, I find a quiet place to kneel down as soon as I remember, or I simply begin to pray in my head. I've learned that having a cue in my routine helps me remember to pray. Right now I pray in the morning as I drive home from the gym, or after I make my bed. Sometimes I choose to pray both times. I also pray with my children before they leave for the day, making sure to ask God to keep them safe and help them make good choices. I feel protection and power when I start my day with prayer.

Pray often

Once prayer becomes a part of your life, you will realize how often prayer can help you throughout your day. I pray for my children if I know they have a test or difficult situation at school. I pray for my husband while he is at work. If I feel frustrated with my young daughter, I pray for help and strength as I attempt to reason with her. When the children fight and I feel my temper rise, I pray for peace and calm. These aren't long prayers, but short thoughts sent up to heaven. I also try to pray for things I'm thankful for, like the peas coming up in the garden or a good interaction with my son. When tragedy strikes around the world, I know I can pray for those affected and for peace.

Pray anywhere

I've already mentioned praying in the car. I also pray in the shower and while I run. My husband and I have taught our children that they can pray anywhere; God is always listening and always ready to help. If you don't have time or a place to sit or kneel, pray in your head. As you are getting in the habit of prayer, you might want to say the words out loud as you pray. I like to do this occasionally to make sure I am being mindful in my prayers.

Be specific

God is interested in the details of your life. I feel a better connection with him when I express gratitude for specific things in my life, like a supportive husband and a home that protects me from Oregon rainstorms. I also ask for detailed things; for example, patience in dealing with sibling squabbles or inspiration as I plan activities for a youth camp that I help direct. At the end of each day, it is helpful to take inventory as you pray, noting times you were assisted and ways you would like to improve.

Write it down

Several years ago I lost a much-anticipated pregnancy at 19 weeks. A woman in my neighborhood kindly asked me if she could add my name to her prayer list. I asked her about her list, and she said she wrote down people and things to pray for so she would remember them. I thanked her for adding me to her list. Although my own list is mostly mental, there are times when I use my journal as catalyst for remembering things and people I need to pray for. If you have trouble coming up with things to say during a prayer, writing a few thoughts down could help.

Be grateful

Prayers of thanks, even during rough stages in life, always help me see things more positively. Occasionally, I say prayers of gratitude that only thank God for what he has blessed me with. It's hard not to ask for things, but praying in this way helps me develop faith and humility.

Look for answers

Prayer is a two-way communication method. If you have questions, expect answers. They might not come in the most direct ways. I find prayer and scripture reading are perfect partners for helping me receive insights about my life. I have also learned to be patient as I pray, knowing answers might not come this week or even this year, and also realizing the answer I want may not be the answer God gives.

The pattern of personal prayer that I've developed in my life has changed me. I feel more capable of understanding others and doing good. Every once in a while my Internet service doesn't work properly, and I feel disconnected for the day or two I'm offline. Fortunately, my connection to God is always working as long as I am willing to communicate. If you want to increase your faith, feel protected and receive guidance for your own life, make personal prayer a part of each day.

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