Survey: Jehovah's Witnesses Pray the Most Nationally

May 7, 2009

Author: Ann Rodgers

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On this National Day of Prayer, a survey finds that Jehovah's Witnesses are the most likely Americans to pray daily, Catholics are just below average and 5 percent of atheists claim to pray daily.

"It's more likely [atheists] enjoy messing with the people doing the survey," said Stuart Bechman, president of the Atheist Alliance International. "Maybe they are talking about grace at dinner with a religious family."

In the survey of 35,000 Americans from the Pew Research Center, Jews pray the least among faith groups, with 26 percent of its members praying once a day.

Many Jews wouldn't count the mealtime blessing over bread, since prayer requires a minyan, or gathering of 10 adults, said Rabbi Art Donsky of Temple Ohav Shalom, McCandless. Since the survey question was about prayer outside of services, that may explain the low number.

"For the average Jewish person, prayer is an organized minyan in a synagogue," he said.

Ernie Frederick, 75, of Kennedy, is director of the Pittsburgh Prayer Network, which encourages people to pray for their community. People often give up because they don't understand prayer, he said.

"People tend to think of prayer as a candy machine, where I put the right God words in and pull the lever and God gives us his goodies. They think of answers to prayer as objects rather than as expressions of his will and purpose for us," he said.

He organized a two-hour National Day of Prayer observance in Market Square, beginning at 11:30 a.m. today. Nationally, the day's activities tend to be dominated by white evangelicals.

Two groups that are outside the evangelical category due to doctrinal differences pray the most. Eighty-nine percent of Jehovah's Witnesses and 82 percent of Mormons say they pray daily. Among members of historically black Protestant churches, 80 percent said they pray daily.

Those are followed, in order, by white evangelicals, Muslims, Hindus, Orthodox Christians and Catholics. Among those who pray the least, 53 percent of mainline Protestants, 45 percent of Buddhists, and 26 percent of Jews said they pray at least once a day.

The survey found that daily prayer increases with age, decreases with income and that women are more likely than men to pray daily.