The number of searches on Google for the word “prayer” have greatly increased over the past few weeks as the coronavirus has garnered headlines, according to a research paper.
Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture, released a preliminary draft of a paper on Monday titled “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Bentzen analyzed internet searches for prayer in 75 countries and reported that “search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”
“In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for stress relief and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” wrote Bentzen in the Abstract. “I document that Google searches on prayer has skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global.”
Bentzen found that during March, internet searches for prayer “surged to the highest level during the past five years for which comparative Google search data is available, surpassing all other major events that otherwise instigate intensified demand for prayer, such as Christmas, Easter, and Ramadan.”
“I find that the intensified searches on prayer during the COVID-19 pandemic is global: It occurs on all continents and for Christians and Muslims. Even Denmark, one of the least religious countries in the world sees systematic increases in internet searches on prayer,” she continued.
“The surge mainly coincides with increases in the registered cases of the COVID-19 rather than surges in death rates. Prayer intensity also rises in countries that have only recently been hit by the pandemic themselves.”
Over the past few weeks, as the coronavirus has spread in the United States, large numbers of churches have canceled their in-person services and shifted to online worship.
Some churches have reported dramatic increases in online views for their streaming worship services, such as pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, located in Houston, Texas, and pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas.
In a statement shared with The Christian Post on March 16, Lakewood reported that the decision led to a record number of viewers online.
“We saw 4.51 million people tune in throughout the weekend across platforms,” the church said. “This broke our previous record of 4.17 million in November of last year when we broadcast Kanye West’s Sunday service from Lakewood."
Last week, in response to the pandemic, Pope Francis called on Christians across denominations to pray the Lord’s Prayer on March 25 at noon.
“Let us stay united. I invite all Christians to direct their voices together toward Heaven,” he said on his official Twitter account.