I was 9 or 10 when I read Judy Blume's (LOVE me some JB!) Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. That was when I started to pray.
At the time, I could count on one hand the number of times I'd been to church and still have fingers left over (that hasn't changed much), so the concept of religion, idea of God, and practice of praying was foreign to me. Yet Margaret's simple conversations really spoke to me. As I lay in bed, I'd start off thanking God for anything good, fun, or special that happened over the course of the day; I'd move on to asking God to watch out for Mom, Dad, Nick, Taylor, etc; and then I'd ask for things for myself - to have a good sleep, to have a good day, to do well on a test.
It's probably silly considering I've never practiced a religion, but it's something I've done almost every night for the past 24 years. I find a huge amount of peace and comfort in the ritual. 9 times out of 10, I'm asleep before I get to the asking for stuff for myself part.
I used to feel like a bit of a sham when friends would ask for prayers, regardless of whether I chimed in my support (who am *I* to say I'll send prayers when I don't go to church?) or if I said I'd send something a little more innocuous like "happy thoughts" (but I *do* pray! sorta!). Recently I realized that it doesn't matter HOW I do it: it counts. It matters. It makes a difference, whether it's in a Higher Power way, focusing my attention and energy, or just plain sending love.
I do it because it makes me feel better, makes me feel like I'm doing something, no matter how small.