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Americans want more personal prayer

"Talking to God: For more and more Americans, worship services are no longer enough. They want the intimate contact of personal prayer." (1992, January 6). Newsweek.



According to Father Andrew M. Greeley, sociologist, at NORC social science research center and George H. Gallup and Margaret M. Poloma in Varieties of Prayer

  • 78% Of the U.S. population prays once a week.
  • 57% Report praying at least once a day.
  • Even among the 13% atheists, one in five still prays daily.
  • 91% Of women pray; 85% of men pray.
  • 91% Of blacks pray; 87% of whites do so.
  • 42% Regularly feel a deep sense of peace; 12% never experience this.
  • 26% Regularly feel the strong presence of God; 21% never do.
  • 15% Regularly receive a definite answer to specific pray; 25% have once or twice; 27% never have.

Other findings are also interesting:

  • Prayer becomes more serious to most Americans after they are 30.
  • The baby-boomers (born 1939-1954) were the least religious and reported praying least of recent generations. The praying increased from 37% who prayed at least once a day (between ages of 18-33) to 50% praying at least once a day when they were between ages 34-49.
  • Meditative prayer increases with age: 45% of those 18-24 year olds pray meditatively; 70% of those over 65 years of age do so.
  • Dr. Ana-Maria Rizzuto (Psychiatric Institute of New England) reports that children at puberty have great difficulty reconciling the existence of their childhood just-and-loving-God (or "benign childhood deity") with their new sense of human suffering.

When asked about prayer, Jesuit Father Dick Rice responds:



The big watershed is moving from trying to control God to letting God direct me. The first big step is to cease talking to God and start listening for God. And that requires silence, a nearly forgotten dimension of modern American life.



Rabbi Arthur Green adds:



(Coming into the presence of God is like coming into a space...) where the borders between what is human and what is God are no longer a given. As we become more vulnerable, and more human, we discover God.



Spiritual theologian, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, describes prayer in this way:



To pray is to bring God back into the expand His presence.



The article concludes:



In an age of relativism, God remains for many the one true absolute. In an era of transience and divorce, God can be the only place left to turn to for unconditional love.

The life of a journey with God as well as towards God, a journey in which prayer becomes for those who pursue it as natural as breathing...

When everything we do is prayer, the fruit is an increase of love, patience and compassion for others leaving behind the unmistakable taste of holiness.




  1. What does this article show you about the spirituality of the U.S.? Are you surprised by anything here? Do you consider it to be a fair discussion of how people are praying privately?
  2. How do you explain the discrepancy between the amount of prayer and the amount of injustice, violence, corruption and stress in our society?
  3. Did you find in this any helpful suggestions for prayer? What would you add to an article like this?


  1. That this modern society feels the need of prayer seems evident. How it can find the kind of prayer that brings justice, compassion, and peace is a challenge that remains to be solved.
  2. Young people feel the pain and stress of life long before they are thirty years of age. We must find ways to introduce adolescents to healing and transforming prayer.
  3. Obviously, leaders who exploit prayer needs for profit are doing damage to the reputation of prayer. Leaders who are too busy to pray themselves also do damage to the prayer life of church and other religious organizations.
  4. There is a growing need for prayer or spiritual advisors.

Dean Borgman cCYS