Britons still believe in prayer - and young lead the way, poll suggests

Research commissioned by the Church of England found that only one in seven people insist they would “never” resort to prayer in the face of problems in their lives, those of their friends or the wider world.

And when asked to give an example of something they might pray about irrespective of whether or not they were religious, four out of five people ventured a response.

Perhaps significantly, teenagers and people in their early 20s emerged as less likely to reject prayer than their parents’ generation.

The findings emerge from a poll of more than 2,000 people conducted by ICM for the Church of England in the run-up to Easter.

The polling found that women are more likely to believe in prayer than men, with 85 per cent citing something they would pray for.

And only nine per cent of those aged 18 to 24 who were polled said they would never pray for anything, compared with 17 per cent of those in their late 50s and early 60s.

Among pensioners, the proportion who rejected the possibility of prayer falls to nine per cent again, the same as for young adults.

The findings contrast sharply with the findings of the most recent census which suggested a significant drop in religious affiliation in Britain over the past decade.

The proportion of people in England and Wales who classed themselves as Christian fell to 59 per cent in 2011, down from 72 per cent a decade earlier.

It found that people were likely to put others before themselves – at least openly - when considering what they might pray for.

Some 31 per cent said they might pray for peace in the world and 27 per cent suggested an end to poverty and a similar proportion cited family members.

By contrast only 15 per cent spoke of praying for guidance or healing for themselves and a similar proportion said they would pray to cope with stress in their lives.

Perhaps tellingly, only 10 per cent said they would pray for forgiveness.

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith said: “Prayer is one of the most natural and instinctive of human responses, so I am not surprised to see these findings.

“I come across people on an almost daily basis who want to talk about prayer and how to do it.

“This has been even more evident recently, as many people are facing uncertainty about jobs and finance.

“However, there has also been a desire to pray for trouble spots in the world, not least when we see the appalling photos from Syria on the television.”