Aug 17, 2017 by Will Maule

How Do Americans Pray? And What For? This New Study Reveals All

Have you ever wondered how the majority of Americans pray? Do they do it silently? Corporately? At home on their own, or maybe just when they are in Church. Plus, what are they praying for? Their country? Family? So many questions! Well, this new study from the Barna went to find some answers

The June survey of 1,015 US adults found that 82 per cent would most often pray silently and alone, while only 13 per cent prayed audibly and alone. Shockingly, just two per cent said they most often prayed "collectively with a church" or "audibly with another person or group."

'Gratitude and thanksgiving' came in as the most popular prayer with 62 per cent. Tied with this was 'the needs of my family and community.' Personal guidance in crises takes was also a very popular subject in people's conversations with the almighty (49 per cent). However, there seemed to be less drive to pray for the requests of others (34 per cent).

Worries about the government was also lower down the list with 24 per cent, global injustice (20 per cent) or reciting Scripture or liturgies (Eight per cent).

And what about global injustice? Is this intertwined with political views? Well, liberals are more likely to pray for global injustices (26 per cent) than conservatives (19 per cent), and black people more likely to do the same (27 per cent) than white people (19 per cent). 

"Prayer is by far the most common spiritual practice among Americans," said Barna's editor in chief, Roxanne Stone. "The vast majority of Americans—no matter their religious affiliation or non-affiliation—participate in some kind of prayer activity. Barna has found this to be true consistently over the last several decades. The numbers have barely changed from year to year. Which made us wonder: what do people mean by prayer? What do these prayers actually look like? And who are they praying to?"

"What we found gives us a much more nuanced portrait of the American prayer life. The most notable aspect of which is it's individual quality. People pray mostly alone—it is a solitary activity defined primarily by the immediate needs and concerns of the individual. Corporate prayer and corporate needs are less compelling drivers in people's prayer lives."

"The good news: People have active and personal prayer lives. They are engaging with God outside their houses of worship and around the most intimate and vulnerable areas of their lives."

However, Roxanne argues that there is still room for improvement! 

"What would it look like to begin to broaden the scope of those prayer lives? To consider the power of corporate prayer—when more than one are gathered in God's name? How can we turn our collective prayers toward broader world issues and injustices? How do our prayers help others in times of crisis?" she asks.

"Such questions can enliven prayer lives and embolden people to believe the power of their prayer."

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