While rate of church attendance falls, Canadians keep on praying

An Angus Reid survey found that people who pray most frequently seek guidance and give thanks as well as asking for help.

An Angus Reid survey found that people who pray most frequently seek guidance and give thanks as well as asking for help.

June 13, 2016
AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI
THE B. C. CATHOLIC

Prayer is still considered valuable by most Canadians, says a new survey.

A recent poll of 1,500 people has found 86 per cent pray, and they find it beneficial.

"We know that church attendance has really dropped dramatically in the last 50 years," Angus Reid, a pollster and sociologist at the Angus Reid Institute, told The B.C. Catholic.

"I thought that it was important to look at the whole question of faith and religion through a slightly different lens."

The poll, conducted in March, found 42 per cent of Canadians pray at least once a week, and another 44 per cent pray about once a month. Only 15 per cent said they never pray.

The report shows 54 per cent have prayed privately in the last year. One in five of them do so daily and 15 per cent pray at least once a week.

"I was pleasantly surprised to see that we didn't have the same deterioration in prayer that we've seen in church attendance," Reid said.

The survey included people across Canada and members of different faiths, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim. It found most people continue to embrace prayer, though they often choose to do it privately.

Respondents could report how they had prayed in the last year. The most common prayer activity (34 per cent) was private prayer.

Seventeen per cent said they meditated, 17 per cent gave thanks for food, 14 per cent prayed in a place of worship, 14 per cent attended religious services, 10 per cent prayed with family and six per cent prayed in a prayer group.

A surprising finding was the connection between prayer in childhood and prayer in adult life, Reid said. "If you prayed as a child, the odds that you will pray as an adult are 93 per cent."

If a person did not pray as a child, the odds that they will pray frequently as an adult is six per cent.

"It really reinforced the fact that prayer in childhood is the most fundamental building block of developing a life-long habit and practice of prayer," Reid said.

"We have to really enforce to parents, and grandparents, that they have a responsibility to really focus on the prayer life of their children and grandchildren."

The poll also asked Canadians for the reasons they pray. The most common reasons were to thank God (52 per cent) and to ask for help (49 per cent).

Reid said people who prayed regularly were more likely to say they did so to give thanks, while those who prayed less tended to ask for help.

"When you look at the overall pattern, you have this sense that there are people who are really committed to prayer and whose pattern of prayer is not just asking for help, but seeking guidance and offering thanks."