Most churchgoers prefer prayer to Bible reading: study
Most Protestant churchgoers in the United States spend time alone with God on a daily basis — but most talk to God through prayer rather than listening to Him through His Word, a new study has found.
According to a study by Lifeway Research, 65% of Protestant churchgoers intentionally spend time alone with God at least daily, with 44% saying daily and 21% saying more than once a day.
Meanwhile, 17% of churchgoers say they are alone with God several times a week, and 7% say once a week. Others said they spent time alone with God a few times a month (5%), once a month (2%, less than once a month (3%) or never (1%).
Lifeway Research conducted the online survey of 1,002 Americans Sept. 19-29, 2022, using a national pre-recruited panel. Respondents were screened to include those who identified as Protestant/non-denominational and attend religious services at least once a month.
Most churchgoers, 83%, say they are more likely to talk to God through prayer rather than reading from the Bible or a devotional (39%). Most churchgoers pray in their own words (83%), thank God (80%), praise God (62%) or confess sins (49%).
“An earlier discipleship study from Lifeway Research showed that praising and thanking God is one of the top five predictors of high spiritual maturity,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “This is a widespread practice among churchgoers when they are alone with God.”
Interestingly, out of churchgoers that opted to read during their time alone with God, most said they would prefer to read from a physical Bible (63%). Others would read from a Bible that includes additional commentary or devotional thoughts (25%) or Scripture from an app (20%). Only 7% said they would read a devotional from an app.
Researchers discovered that those with Evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without Evangelical beliefs to say they would read from a Bible (78% compared to 52%) if they were reading something in their time alone with God.
With 40%, young adult churchgoers, ages 18-34, are the most likely to read Scripture from an app and the least likely to read from a devotional book that prints some Scripture (21%).
“Today’s Christians have more resources than ever to aid them in spending time with God and His Word,” McConnell said. “As new resources are created, they can encourage someone who, without that innovation, wouldn’t have spent time with God. But there is also a strong relationship between spending time alone with God’s Word and worshiping frequently with others who may encourage you in your walk with God.”
Females (48%) are more likely than males (38%) to make spending time with God a daily habit, and those in the South (49%) are also among the most likely to say they spend time alone with God on a daily basis.
The frequency of church attendance also impacted time alone with God: The study found that those who attend worship services at least four times a month (26%) are more likely than those who attend one to three times a month to say they spend time alone with God more than once a day.
“We see a pattern in Scripture of followers of God withdrawing to spend time alone with Him. Jesus Christ Himself also did this,” said McConnell. “Most Protestant churchgoers continue this relational interaction with God and use a variety of resources as they do.”
A November study from Lifeway Research found that many attendees have yet to return to church since the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the vast majority of churches have resumed in-person services. On average, pastors said attendance at their churches in August was 85% of their Sunday attendance levels in January 2020.
Similarly, the August edition of the "State of the Bible: USA 2022" report from the American Bible Society found that 40% of Generation Z adults ages 18 and older attend church "primarily online." They were followed closely by 36% of churchgoers ages 77 and up.
A previous study from Lifeway Research found a strong link between church attendance and evangelistic activity. The “never actives” were most likely to attend church less than once a month (46%) compared with the “very active” group, which was most likely to attend four times or more a month (24%).
In a recent interview with The Christian Post, pastor and author Max Lucado stressed the importance of attending church and criticized the “apathetic” attitude many professing Christians have toward Church attendance in the aftermath of a pandemic.
“I think there are a thousand reasons for us to meet in person,” he said. “Now, if somebody has health concerns, if their body or health is compromised, it's not time. God bless you, I understand. But I am wanting to give a godly kick in the rump to those who might just be a little bit lethargic.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org