Survey: Fewer Doctors Believe in Importance of Everyday Prayer

Physicians today are less likely to believe in the importance of prayer in everyday life than they were just four years ago, according to the results of two national studies.

In 2004, N.J.-based HCD Research surveyed 1,000 physicians and found 46 percent agreeing that prayer is important in everyday life. A second survey, conducted just last week, found only 30 percent of physicians agreeing to the importance of everyday prayer.

"Might the rapidly changing social and economic environment have some effect on physicians' religious beliefs?" posed researchers at HCD Research.

Though fewer physicians may see prayer as important in everyday life, more than half (55 percent) still find themselves occasionally praying for individual patients. Furthermore, 70 percent say they believe miracles are possible today – only three points less than the figure recorded in 2004.

Still, the majority of physicians (71 percent) said they believe that very little or none of the outcome of medical and surgical treatment of their patients is related to forces totally outside of their control, such as the "supernatural" or an "Act of God." In comparison, 55 percent of the American public say either very little or none of the outcome should be attributed to non-human forces.

"[I]n a profession that depends on skill and knowledge in a very competitive world, professionals (even doctors) must turn inward and rely on skills and self-worth to survive," commented researchers at HCD Research.

Furthermore, more physicians are working for secular organizations or constrained by HMOs so fewer may be looking to religion, the researchers added.

"Will the decline in religious beliefs persist into the future?" they posed. "Probably, due to the influx of younger doctors, the overall decline in religious beliefs and belief in miracles as they will be more knowledgeable and 'scientific.'"

Conducted Dec. 6-8, the survey by HCD Research sought to obtain physicians' perceptions of faith, prayer and miracles in the medical field as well as their everyday lives.

The study was conducted among physicians representing various religious backgrounds, including Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian and other), Jewish (Orthodox Jewish, Conservative Jewish, Reform Jewish and Culturally Jewish), Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Scientologist, Islamic, Shinto, Sikh, and other religious traditions as well as those with no religious traditions.