1 in 5 UK Nonbelievers Prays to God in Times of Crisis; Only 40 Percent Say God Answers Prayers

A man seen praying in this undated photo. |

A new survey on the prayer habits of adults in the U.K. has found that just over half turn to prayer, including one in five of those who describe themselves as non-religious, particularly at a time of crisis.

The survey, released on Sunday, was carried out by ComRes on behalf of the Christian aid agency Tearfund, found that 51 percent of adults pray.

Only around one in five, or 20 percent, however, said that they pray regularly, which was defined as at least once a month.

The poll was carried out by interviewing 2,069 U.K. adults online between Dec. 1–3, 2017, and the responses were divided in two major categories: from those who identify as Christians, and from all the respondents in general.

Of those who say they are nonreligious, 55 percent said they pray in times of personal crisis or tragedy. Thirty-four percent of nonbelievers said they pray "on the off chance that something could change," and 23 percent said they do so to gain comfort or to make them feel less lonely.

Those who identified as Christians were also most likely to pray in times of tragedy, at 57 percent; though 45 percent of believers also said they do so specifically because they believe in God. Another 38 percent said they pray because they believe it really makes a difference.

The results of prayer were disputed, with just under half, or 49 percent, stating they believe God hears their prayers. Forty percent said that they have seen an answer to their prayer, with the same amount suggesting that prayer does change what happens in life.

Only 17 percent said that they agree that prayer changes the lives of people living in poverty, however.

As far as prayer subjects, people most often prayed about family, at 71 percent, followed by thanking God, at 42 percent, and prayer for healing, at 40 percent.

Rachel Treweek, bishop of Gloucester, told The Guardian in response to the results: "We should not be surprised by these recent findings, which reflect human longing for the mystery and love of God amid experiences of daily life."

Isabelle Hamley, chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury, added that prayer is "primarily a line of communication with God — thinking, reflecting, bringing one's concerns and worries into a bigger picture. Prayer can involve requests, but it's unhelpful to see God as a heavenly Santa."

"Many people are driven to pray at some point in their lives, even if they are not religious. Praying spontaneously is about reaching out," Hamley said.

A separate YouGov research poll released in October 2017 found that most Britons believe that only six of the Ten Commandments are relevant today.

Less than half of the respondents said that the commandment on not worshiping idols is still essential, with a minority saying the same about not using God's name in vain; worshiping other gods, and keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Religious identification has been on the decline in the U.K. as a whole, with another ComRes survey published in September finding that only 6 percent of British adults are practicing Christians.

The term at the time was defined as those believers who read the Bible, pray, and attend church on a regular basis.

Rachel Jordan, the Church of England's National Mission and Evangelism adviser, said at the time that the results show "a real sense of the scale of the task ahead" for the Church.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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