The Rushmore Report: What Do Most Americans Pray For?


No matter how politics or culture changes, a majority of Americans say they’ve prayed at least one time in the last three months, according to a study just released by the Barna Group. Barna researchers surveyed 1,015 American adults ages 18 and older, 888 of whom identified themselves as Christians. Respondents were asked to answer: “What does the content of your prayers most often pertain to?”

The data shows that 62 percent of respondents who pray regularly do so “with varying motivations, the most common being to offer gratitude and thanksgiving.” Eighty-two percent say they most often pray silently and when they are by themselves.

Expressing gratitude in prayer is highest among baby boomers at 71 percent and is lowest among millennials at 53 percent.

The “needs of their family and community” are a prayer topic for Americans, with 61 percent identifying it as a motivator, and 49 percent pray out of a need for “personal guidance in crisis.”

Nearly 90 percent of praying American adults direct their prayers to “God” although they don’t all pray to the same deity. Addressing “God” was the most common response among almost every segment surveyed.

Only 24 percent pray for their government. (The other 76 percent have apparently given up.)

Roxanne Stone, Barna Group’s Editor-in-Chief, said, “Prayer is by far the most common spiritual practice among Americans.”

No matter how politics or culture shift, Americans keep on praying. Stone continued, “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.”

Stone added that it is good news that people have “active and personal” prayer lives and are “engaging with God outside their houses of worship and around the most intimate and vulnerable areas of their lives.”

She asked, “But 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?”


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