News just out: young people pray twice as much as old people!
I WAS SURPRISED and delighted by a recent survey (see Young more likely to pray than over-55s – survey – BBC News) in which over 2,000 people were polled about their prayer life. Whilst over 50% of under 55s pray at least once a month, only 24% of over 55s did.
You may have shared my surprise. In most of the churches I have attended, more people are over 55 than under. Of course, some churches buck this trend, but I think the key explanation is younger people do not feel the need for formal institutional church – or other religion – to pray. And that is what delights me. Anyone can pray to God at any time. I believe a desire to communicate with our Maker, whatever form you may think He/She may take, is instinctive. Unfortunately, the society in which we live works on a secular basis, and there is no space for the spiritual dimension in everyday life. Politicians “Don’t do God” as Alastair Campbell (Tony Blair’s adviser at the time) said in 2003. But perhaps younger people are more aware of spiritual life, and whether this was increased during the pandemic, whether other religions have made a difference, or whether people are simply more prepared to find their own spiritual path,
I am pleased that so many are looking for God.
But there are two things I suggest as a consequence. Firstly, I would say to the younger folk, do try church. You may have little sense of who it is you are praying to, but the good news is that God has been revealed. Jesus Christ jumps off the pages of the New Testament, which is read in every church in the land. As you learn of Jesus’ character, so you learn of God’s.
Secondly, for those over 55 (I claim my age qualifies me for neutrality in this article, as I am exactly 55, neither young nor old!), I say this: don’t harden your heart to God. Keep going to church, or return to church, or try church. But even without the help of church you too can connect with God. Prayer doesn’t require special words or a set formula. Praying is merely sharing your day, or sharing your gratitude and your worries, with the One who is with you forever. Many of us carry on talking to our loved ones after they have passed away. That is a type of prayer. Pray more. It puts the world into better perspective.
Rev Andy Storch, curate of Caversham
Thameside and Mapledurham