A journey into prayer


One in five Canadians say they pray daily. Photo: Bryan Minear/unsplash.com

(This article also appears in the April 2018 issue of the Anglican Journal.)

Kneeling, hands folded, eyes fixed on the church altar. Sitting by the window, Bible in hand, reading quietly as a candle flickers on the side table. Sitting, eyes closed, as tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar burn in a bowl. Walking, slowly and mindfully, along a lake blanketed by early morning fog. These are some of the ways people pray.

How do you pray? Why do you pray? What is prayer? If God is all-knowing, why should we pray? This month, we begin a series on prayer, which will explore these questions and more. 

It may surprise people to know that prayer is “alive and well” in Canada, according to an Angus Reid Institute Survey released in 2016. Prayer occupies a “prominent” place in the lives of many Canadians even though they live in one of the most secular countries in the world, the survey noted. Among the key findings:

  • 42% of Canadians pray at least once a week; 44% engage in a prayer activity each month
  • 86%, even those who reject religion, believe prayer enriches the person who prays
  • One in five say they pray daily
  • 43% of those 55 or older pray once
    a week; 23% of those 18–34 pray
    once a week
  • About three in four who pray “often” or “sometimes” do so at home
  • Two in five of those who pray do so regularly at a place of worship—a church, temple or mosque

Surveys in the U.S. and the U.K. show similar results. Fifty-five per cent of Americans say they pray every day, according to a 2014 Pew Research Survey. Over half (51%) of Britons also pray and one in five say they pray even though they are not religious, according to Tearfund, a U.K.-based Christian relief and development agency, which released results of its poll in January.

Even without these surveys, some point to anecdotal evidence that while people are becoming less religious—at least in many secular societies like Canada—quite a number still believe in prayer or at least appear to do so.

How many of you have been asked by friends, even non-believers, for prayers when they’re undergoing a personal crisis? Each time tragedy strikes—a terror attack or a natural disaster—we are flooded with social media feeds asking for prayers or expressing one’s “thoughts and prayers.” Whether in fact people do pray or this has simply become a kneejerk reaction to unfortunate events that now occur with alarming frequency, we don’t know. But it’s a question worth asking and we will explore this one, too.

Canada, like the U.S. and the U.K., is, of course, a nation of many faiths and beliefs, and it goes without saying that its prayer patterns are diverse. But as ecumenical and interfaith co-operation grows, what are different faiths learning from one another when it comes to prayer? Or is there still resistance and fear about embracing something from another religion?

We are approaching this series on prayer with unfettered curiosity and a hope that it will not only broaden your knowledge, but help enrich your prayer lives.

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Marites N. Sison

Marites N. Sison

Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks look forward to the articles on prayer.
    We should encourage our parishes to undergo this discussion as well. Example
    Many pray at home , at rest breaks etc as you describe.
    Can one who does not necessarily attend church on a regular basis
    Pray and express their thanks to God and receive God’ blessing and if needed His forgiveness?

  2. God hears the prayers of His people ,some prayer go no further then the ceiling. If we guard iniquity in our heart God will not hear us. The person that has not come to Christ and is still in their sin ,guards iniquity in their heart.

  3. Friends at work have asked me to pray for them, one even reporting a healing. I think that lay persons should be encouraged to pray for parishioners and trained in how to do that. Because Matthew 24 has Jesus warning that no one deceive us, it would seem that this time of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ might also apply in a church setting! ‘False Christs’ who speak as if they were Jesus Christ are more common than before. We need to be sure that we are truly ‘in Christ’ by acknowledging we need a Savior, repent and be baptized. I came to Christ 60+ years ago through my Anglican sponsor of Inter-school Christian Fellowship (Navigators). Please don’t dilute the Gospel! Those not yet believers need ‘unvarnished’ and undiluted truth.

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