Church attendance and other marks of religious observance are in decline, but a new study has found that people–including the non-religious–are still praying. In fact, 57% of Americans say they pray every day, and 75% pray once a week or more. This would seem to indicate a shift away from corporate religion to privatized religion. See details after the jump.
Question: From a Christian perspective, is the persistence of prayer, even as church attendance declines, a good thing, in the sense of better than nothing, or a sign of spiritual sensibility despite it all? Or, as Joe Carter argues, is it a bad thing?
A record-low share of Americans attend church regularly, affiliate with a religious faith and see themselves as religious, according to a major survey released this week. . . .
Fully 57 percent of respondents said they pray at least once a day, little different from 54 percent in 1983, when the question was first asked on the survey. Three-quarters of respondents said they pray at least once a week, while 1 in 4 pray less often or never. . . .The stability of prayer contrasts sharply with erosion on other measures of religious commitment. Since 2006, the percentage of people describing themselves as “very” or “moderately” religious has declined eight percentage points, from 62 percent to 54 percent. The share affiliating with a particular faith has fallen from over 90 percent in the 1980s and 1990s to 79 percent in 2014. Just over 4 in 10 report attending worship services at least once a month, down roughly 10 points from three decades ago. All are record lows.
The resilience of prayer reflects a broader shift in Americans’ understanding of religion, according to Christian Smith, a professor of sociology who leads the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society.
“Religion is gradually becoming more personal, private, subjective in practice,” and “less public, institutional and shared,” Smith said. “People still believe religious things and practice religion ‘in their heads,’ as in prayer, but are less institutionally connected and engage in fewer public, institution-centered observations.”