More people use prayer than social media such as Facebook and Twitter when making a major or difficult decision, according to new research.
Asked where people look for help in such a scenario, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of respondents told the polling company ComRes that they would consult friends and family. Just over half (51 per cent) said they would use online search engines or websites when looking for help, but only four per cent named social media including Facebook and Twitter, compared to six per cent who would turn to prayer.
Only two per cent would turn to a priest or another religious resource, such as the Bible or another holy book, according to the findings.
The research was commissioned by the leading religious affairs journalist Ruth Gledhill, the outgoing Editor of Christian Today who is delivering one of the Ebor Lectures in York tomorrow evening.
Friends and family was selected by 81 per cent of female respondents, compared with 72 per cent of males, while more men than women said they would look to an expert.
Around one in five (23 per cent) respondents said that they would speak to an expert when making a major or difficult decision. Of male respondents, 29 per cent selected 'speak to an expert' compared with 17 per cent of females.
Professor Stephen Bullivant, director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary's University, Twickenham, said: 'More people are likely to pray about something than they are to consult social media. That is across the board. There is a lot of research already pointing to how religious London is, and reflecting this, the proportion who choose prayer in London is eight per cent, compared to one per cent in the North East. Given the amount of time people spend on social media, and the amount of attention it gets, the fact that people are more likely to ask God for help in making difficult decisions than Facebook is really interesting.'
Gledhill, who starts a new job as multi-media editor of The Tablet at the end of this month, said: 'I was terribly surprised by how few people use prayer, or a book such as the Bible or a religious source such as a priest as their first or second choice to turn to for advice. I was also surprised that such a large number turn first to friends and family, which comes out way ahead of search engines. And equally, I was also interested in how low down the list Facebook and Twitter and other social media come. Although the number who would turn first or second to prayer is very low, it is still higher than the number who would use Facebook.
'I think these findings represent both a challenge and opportunity for the churches. The opportunity is in the clear pre-eminence of friends and family as sources of wisdom when making difficult decisions, even in today's online world. The challenge is for the local vicar to become seen as one of those friends that we turn to.'