When was the last time you prayed?
Depending on how old you are the answer might be different. Our normal expectation is that the older you are the more likely you are to pray. That sense can only be heightened in Cornwall as we see old chapels bought up and refurbished as second homes. Prayers, like those chapels, can seem very much like a thing of the past.
But if that is your perception then you’re wrong! A recent survey revealed that young people in the UK are twice as likely as older people to pray regularly. Around 51% of 18 to 34-year-olds polled said they pray at least once a month, compared with just 24% of those aged 55 and over.
It also found that 49% of the younger age group attend a place of worship every month, compared with 16% of over-55s.
There are various theories as to why this might be. As the UK becomes more diverse then young people are more likely to be members of an ethnic minority for whom prayer is important.
It’s also true that the pandemic has opened up avenues to online worship that didn’t exist before. That’s certainly been the case here in Cornwall.
It’s also true that we live in a very anxious age – and young people are more likely to feel that anxiety. The COVID pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the mental health and well-being of young people. They are also more likely to be anxious about the impact of climate change and global warming, for the simple reason that it’s going to have a greater impact on them than on older generations.
But there might be another reason why young people are drawn to prayer. Maybe – just maybe – they find that it works; that there is someone there who is listening: someone what’s more who answers when they pray. It’s certainly been my experience when I pray that apparent ‘coincidences’ somehow become more frequent!
Maybe it’s time that older generation like mine stop urging young people to become more like us. Instead in this, as in so many other things, we could decide to become more like them. I suspect if we did the world would be a better place. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing to pray for.