A recent poll about prayer conducted by Comres and commissioned by Tearfund finds that prayer is still very common. About half the population still pray, at least occasionally. That is a higher figure than perhaps most would have expected.
What is especially interesting is that there is not much connection between private prayer and churchgoing. Only one in three of those who pray on their own also do so at a place of worship. Most pray privately. In fact, a quarter of those who do not go to church still pray.
I think that some of the press headlines used to report the survey findings are somewhat misleading. They say that many ‘non-religious’ people pray. But I would say that someone who prays regularly is by definition religious. I would not tie being ‘religious’ so closely to churchgoing.
Another headline said that many ‘non-believers’ pray. It is likely that most of those who pray also believe in God, though may would not sign up in full to the Christian creeds. Again, it seems misleading to talk about the survey showing that ‘non-believers’ often pray.
It is increasingly clear that though some indices of being religious are declining, but many are not. We can’t talk in general terms about ‘secularisation’ because some indices show secularisation and others don’t.
We already know that many still believe in God. This survey shows that many still pray. I conclude that religion is not as dead as many supposed.
However, if you look at churchgoing and more specific credal beliefs, you get a very different picture. Then, religion seems to be in steep decline.
The headlines for this survey highlight the fact that non-religious people still often pray. I could turn that round and highlight the fact that so many people who are still broadly religious (still believe in God, still pray) do NOT go to church.
Why? It is partly because everyone is now so busy. But I think it is also the result of how church services are conducted, and that something could be done about that.
One detail in this survey really caught my eye. 12% of people who pray do so while exercising. A lot of people in our society exercise regularly and I have thought for some time that prayer and exercise go naturally together.
It would be useful to have more guidance on how to pray while exercising. I may return to that in another blog shortly.