As the country marked National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of May, a new study reveals insights about the habits and attitudes Americans have about prayer.
The National Day of Prayer Study—commissioned by Skylight and conducted by City Square Associates from April 6 to April 17
—surveyed a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18-64 about ways they connect with God. Among its findings: while Americans have varied definitions and methods of prayer, those who pray spend an average of 18 minutes praying daily, with nearly half saying they pray on a regular basis.
“These results make it clear that there is more praying taking place than people expect. People are praying in a variety of ways and in unexpected places throughout the day,” said John Dye, executive director of Skylight. “They are frequently exploring their spiritual side and using prayer to work through adversity, find meaning, and create connection with a Higher Power.”
The National Day of Prayer Survey took a fresh look at how and why Americans pray. Despite recent statistics that suggest Americans are becoming less religiously affiliated, prayer appears to be a constant practice in people’s lives, with Americans spending 3.6 billion minutes each day praying. 53% of those who pray increased the frequency of their spiritual practice during COVID-19 lockdowns, while only 8% report praying less often. Praying for a loved one in crisis, prayer for someone who is ill, and praying for other people are the top three reasons Americans say they speak to a higher power through prayer. And 65% of Americans say they connect with a higher power regularly (at least a few times a week) through prayer, meditation, mindfulness, or reciting affirmations.
Other highlights from the survey include:
- Americans who pray are finding time to do so throughout the day: 50% pray at dawn or when they wake, 27% at breakfast, 13% while exercising, 20% before leaving for work/school, and 25% during their commute. As the day progresses, 27% pray in the afternoon, 16% while doing chores, 25% while on a walk, 15% during a sunset, 29% at dinnertime, 55% at bedtime, and 45% sometime during the night.
- Americans are praying in places other than, or in addition to, their home or a place of worship: The proportion of those who say they pray in their car is 15 points higher than the proportion who say they pray in a place of worship, while 24% of Americans pray in the shower.
- One in four (25%) Americans say they pray at work. Of those, 74% report that they have prayed at their desk or workstation, 42% in a parking lot, 31% in a restroom, and 19% in a place dedicated for prayer or meditation.
- 70% of praying Americans say they pray to connect with God; 45% to feel less anxious or depressed, 41% to find solutions to problems, 36% to feel in control and 29% to heal from trauma.
- Americans claim prayer has many positive effects on their wellbeing: 42% report feeling a sense of calm when they pray, 41% grateful, 24% connected, 23% humbled, 18% loving, 17% motivated and 15% inspired.
- One in five Americans (19%) say they have prayed for their pets, while 31% say they have prayed due to a request on social media.
- Having children makes one more likely to pray than those who don’t have children (66% vs. 59%).
- 87% of those that pray say they have had a prayer answered.
“The majority of Americans are connecting with the Divine in diverse, beautiful ways,” added Angela Redding, Skylight’s vice president of strategic partnerships. “Whether at dawn or the middle of the night, in the shower or car, for personal healing or a loved one in crisis, this report tells us that prayer is everywhere, and it’s making our lives better.”