WASHINGTON - Although he wasn't raised in the church, President Barack Obama says his Christian faith has been a sustaining force for him over the past two years in Washington.
The president offered Americans a personal look inside his prayer life at the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday.
"The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray," Obama said.
It was more than 20 years ago that President Obama signed up to work as a community organizer in Chicago. He said that was when his faith in God developed.
"It was through that experience working with pastors and lay people, trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods that I came to know Jesus Christ myself and embrace him as my Lord and Savior," Obama said.
A White House official told CBN News the president wanted to deliver a more personal address this year that would give Americans a more intimate look at how he views scripture and approaches prayer.
"This was the most in-depth testimony of his own personal journey. Not only as a young child where he didn't get a lot of formal spiritual training, but now what he does in the White House," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said.
Obama said his prayers are sometimes general, but can also get specific.
"Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance where there will be boys," he said playfully.
Obama added that he regularly prays for the ability to help others, for humility, and to walk closer to God.
This was an important speech for the president, as polls continue to reveal many Americans believe he is Muslim.
"When Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us, but whether we're being true to our conscience and true to our God," Obama said.
Filmmaker Randall Wallace, best known for the movie "Braveheart" and "Secretariat" also shared his testimony, and a story about the sunglasses he purchased to make himself look more like a director early in his career.
Astronaut Mark Kelly also attended. His wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords continues to recover from a gunshot wound to the head after an assassination attempt against her.
He said the memorial erected outside her hospital in Tucson, Ariz., reminded him he doesn't have to be in church to feel close to God.
"You pray where you are. You pray when God is there in your heart," Kelly explained. "And prayer isn't just asking. It's also listening for answers and expressing gratitude, which I've done a lot lately."
President Obama said he prays America will seek God's face every day.
"When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord and I ask him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people," he said.
"And when I go to bed at night, I wait on the Lord, and I ask him to forgive me of my sins and look after my family and the American people. And to make me an instrument of His will," he continued.
Members of Congress, even on the opposite side of the aisle, said they left the prayer breakfast feeling good about the country.
"It was good to hear that the president is a man who does pray," Rep. Robert Aderhold, R-Ala., said. "And we certainly pray for him and his guidance."