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What the Average American Prays For

With nearly half of Americans praying daily, a recent LifeWay survey reveals both altruistic and vindictive tendencies when one speaks privately to God. The survey was conducted on August 7 and included 1,137 Americans, with a 2.5 percent margin of error.

The results have remained consistent with previous polls that demonstrate the majority of Americans pray on a regular basis. Most surprising, however, is that this survey reveals that roughly half of those who pray believe God answers most­—if not all—of their prayers. And it looks like God is paying attention to the South: 31 percent of Southerners say their prayers are often answered, more than double that of Northeasterners. More than a third of African Americans say the same (38 percent), as opposed to one in five Caucasians and Asian-Americans.

Eight in ten say they regularly pray for family and friends, yet personal problems nearly doubles prayers intended for those affected by natural disasters, with 74 percent compared to 38 percent. Still, the results show that Americans are overwhelmingly generous with their petitions, often praying either for repentance or in gratitude.

 

And then there’s the conniving prayer, as Americans admit to praying for no one to find out about a bad thing they’ve done (15 percent) or for a bad thing to happen to a bad person (9 percent). Apparently nothing seems too petty for God, either. One in five say they’ve prayed for success in something they put almost no effort in, and roughly one in ten pray for a sports team’s victory or finding a good parking spot. Catholics are also far more likely than Protestants to pray for their team (20 percent compared to 11) or for someone to get fired (10 percent compared to 3).

 

The interesting breakdown, however, is when income is taken into account. Christianity Today reports:

One-quarter of respondents with an annual income higher than $150,000 pray for “bad things to happen to bad people,” while only around 8 percent of respondents making less than $50,000 said they would do so. And nearly one in five Americans with incomes over $150,000 have prayed for someone to get fired; in contrast, only 1 in 20 Americans who make between $75,000 and $149,000 and only one in 100 Americans who make less than $30,000 say they have prayed the same.

When considering generations, a decline in faith may be prevalent in Millennials, as 68 percent say they never doubt the existence of God (a 15-point decrease since 2007) compared to the average 80 percent.

Max Lucado, author of Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer, says “Prayer is not a privilege just for the pious or an opportunity for a chosen few. Prayer is God’s invitation to talk: simply, openly and powerfully.” Indeed, one in five without any religious affiliation say they still pray daily.

Image by John Martinez Pavliga, licensed under Creative Commons.