Younger people are more likely to pray than older generations

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Younger people in the UK are more likely to pray than older generations, new research by the Church of England has found.

The study found that while over half (56%) of 18- to 34-year-olds have prayed, this fell to 41% in the 55+ age group.

A third (32%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said they had prayed in the last month, compared to a quarter of over-55s.

The survey of 2,073 adults was carried out on behalf of the Church of England by SavantaComRes.

It found that nearly half of all adults (48%) have prayed before, with just over a quarter (28%) saying they had done so in the last month.

People were most likely to pray for friends and family (69%), followed by those they know who are sick (54%). Around half (51%) said they pray to give thanks.

The Rev Dr Stephen Hance, National Lead for Evangelism and Witness for the Church of England, said: "These findings really challenge the all-too-common assumption that young people are not interested in faith or spiritual things.

"In fact they show us that - more than simply being interested in spirituality - they are already exploring it in practice, to a greater extent than their elders.

"In an age when mindfulness and meditation are more popular than ever, prayer makes sense to people.

"And with pressures mounting and people of every generation facing huge uncertainty, many people of all ages are drawing strength from God in prayer.

"This also confirms what other research has told us, that while younger people may be under-represented in church, this isn't indicative of a lack of interest in faith.

"That's why the Church of England has made engaging young people one of our top priorities for the decade."

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said the results showed that "many people still long for that connection with something and someone beyond themselves".

"As Christians, prayer is the bedrock of our faith and deepens our relationship and understanding of God," he said.

He continued, "At this time of uncertainty in our world where we face many pressing issues such as the climate emergency, wars, famine, the cost of living, reaching out in prayer to the God who loves us and longs to be known to us can bring peace and transform lives.

"As a church we need to be a community of women and men who follow Jesus and offer spaces where the many people growing up in our world today who do not yet know Christ - can learn and receive from him and follow in his way, growing ever closer to God through daily prayer and reading of the scriptures.

"If younger people want to pray, then let our churches be places where prayer is taught and experienced."

The Rev Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, who co-wrote The Teenage Prayer Experiment Notebook with her son, is not surprised by the findings.

She said they may reflect a tendency among younger people to have fewer preconceptions about the Christian faith.

"People of my generation and above were often brought up in a culture that taught them there was a 'right' or 'wrong' way to pray, meaning that they can be very self-conscious about their prayer life and spirituality," she said.

"In my experience today's young adults have been brought up to be comfortable with questions and experimentation: they know lots of people around the world do pray, and are willing to give it a go for themselves."