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Half of UK adults say they pray, new research shows

One in two adults (51%) in the UK pray, according to a new nationwide poll of 2,069 UK adults by ComRes for Christian relief & development agency Tearfund.

Even among those that say they are not religious, one in five (20%) say that they pray suggesting that prayer is still important to many people.  
Among those who pray, over half (55%) say that they are most likely to pray in a crisis. The next most common reasons cited by those who pray is because they believe in God (39%), or because they believe that prayer makes a difference (32%).
When it comes to the most popular topics of prayer among the 27 million  of UK adults who say they pray, family (71%) leads the way, followed by thanking God (42%), praying for healing (40%) and friends (40%). Worldwide issues, such as praying for global poverty or natural disasters, rank seventh on the list (24%), highlighting the challenge for Tearfund to encourage more people to pray for issues of extreme poverty.
In line with the trend towards a fast-paced lifestyle, praying has become incorporated into people’s daily routine with significant proportions now praying on the go, whether that’s while travelling (15% of those who pray), doing household activities like cooking (20%) or doing leisure activities such as exercising (12%). Despite this, a third (33%) of those who pray still do so at a place of worship, such as a church, and a third (33%) pray on waking or before going to sleep.
The new findings on prayer reveal a strong belief in the power of prayer to bring about positive change. Among those who pray, half (49%) agree that God hears their prayers and two in five (39%) agree that prayer changes the world. Praying also makes people feel better, with those who do so most likely to say they feel reassured or hopeful after having prayed (40% say this).
One in five regular churchgoers (at least once a month) still use printed prayer resources (21%) to help them pray, with a small minority (7%) turning to online prayer resources such as prayer apps and online prayer diaries. For regular churchgoers the most common resource used is the Bible, used by over half (52%) of them for guidance.
Dr Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund says: “It is encouraging to see that prayer is such an important part of life for many people in the UK. Whilst it is often easier to pray for issues closer to home, we want to encourage people to continue to engage with global issues and pray for an end to extreme poverty.
“This year marks 50 years of Tearfund, and as part of this we’ve set a goal to see 1 million prayers raised this year to help end extreme poverty. We are inviting our supporters to join with us.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has written a new prayer to mark Tearfund’s 50th anniversary. To view this prayer and for more information on how to get involved, please visit:
Other findings from poll include:

  • One in five (20%) UK adults say they pray regularly (at least once a month)
  • While 51% of UK adults pray, far fewer attend church – 33% do so at least once a year, and 9% do so regularly (at least once per month)
  • Women are more likely to say they ever pray compared with men (56% vs 46%)
  • The youngest and oldest are most inclined to pray for worldwide issues. Among those who pray: a quarter (24%) say they pray about worldwide problems, rising to 31% amongst 18-24 year-olds, 30% of 65-74 year olds and 31% of over 75 year olds
  • Among those who say they have ever prayed, but have no religious affiliation their top reasons for praying were: in times of personal crisis or tragedy (55%), on the off chance that something could change (32%), as a last resort (24%), or to gain comfort or feel less lonely (23%)
  • Regular church attendance strongly correlates to daily prayer habits for Christians: those who attend church regularly (at least monthly) are 4 times more likely to pray every day than those who attend church irregularly (66% vs 16%)

Poll methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,069 adults aged 18+ in the UK between 1st and 3rd December 2017. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults aged 18+ by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

According to ONS data there were an estimated 52,095,025 UK adults aged 18+ in 2017. Research showed that 51% (26,672,652) of UK adults identified as having prayed.

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