Global Personal Prayer habits: 2013 vs. 2018

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“Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.’ This is a daily matter. . . Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 70)

Do you engage in daily prayer as a way of knowing God better? Do you bring to Him all the matters on your heart: the good, the bad, the important, and the seemingly trivial? Prayer is one of the main ways that we can grow to know God more intimately, and therefore is a central part of spiritual life.

Because prayer is so important, the Global Church Member Surveys (GCMS) in both 2013 and 2017-18 have assessed how members worldwide integrate personal prayer into their daily lives. In the 2013 study, respondents were asked if they engaged in personal Bible study and prayer. Over half (58%) said that they do so very much, and another 20.3% shared that they do so often. However, 12.4% admitted that they only sometimes engage in personal Bible study, and 6.5% reported that they never do so.

The 2017-18 GCMS phrased the question a bit differently, asking members how often they engaged in personal prayer outside of mealtimes. Almost two-thirds (64.9%) shared that they pray daily or more than once a day. Another 17.3% said that they engage in personal prayer more than once a week, while 7.9% do so about once a week. The remaining 10% of respondents pray personally less than once a month (5.9%) or never (4.0%). These numbers are shocking, as they indicate that over a third do not pray daily, and one out of every ten members rarely or never engages with their Heavenly Father through personal prayer!

The 2013 GCMS asked participants to respond to the statement, “I pray because I have been taught to pray.” Nearly a third (31.1%) of respondents strongly agreed, and another 18% tended to agree. However, 14.1% of respondents tended not to agree, and nearly over a quarter (28.3%) strongly disagreed. Could it be that perhaps some members are not praying because they do not know how to do so?

Since the family is often responsible for the transmission of spiritual practices and values, researchers in the 2017-18 GCMS asked church members if prayer before meals was a habitual practice in their family of origin. A majority (67%) agreed or strongly agreed that this was the case. A small percentage each said that they weren’t sure (6.9%), disagreed (8.4%), or strongly disagreed (4.4%). Interestingly, 13.4% of respondents indicated that this question did not apply to them, which may imply that they came to know Christ as adults.

Finally, the 2013 GCMS asked church members if they have often felt a sense of God’s presence. (While this statement was not directly linked to prayer, prayer is often an experience that leads to this experience.) Over two thirds (69.9%) of respondents strongly agreed that they often had a sense of God’s presence, and another 12.3% tended to agree. Only small percentages weren’t sure (5.9%) or disagreed to one extent or another (2.9%).

Since prayer is such an integral part of someone’s relationship with God, this important topic should not be taken lightly from the pulpit nor should it be neglected by Sabbath School lessons, small group discussion, etc. Youth leaders need to devote some time to help young generations to grasp the importance of personal prayer and incorporate this knowledge in their personal life. Pastors should pay special attention to this subject when they prepare new converts to baptism especially if these people came to know Christ as adults. Interestingly, even Jesus’ disciples asked Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke, 11:1, KJV). Thus, prayer is an inseparable part of discipleship. And it should be our hope that the next time the Global Church Member Survey is conducted, the church, as a whole, reports higher levels of spiritual engagement through personal prayer.

 


Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry


written by Petr Cincala

prepared by Manuela Coppock