Does prayer still have a future in Canada?
At the 50th BC Leadership Prayer Breakfast, Angus Reid the keynote speaker gave us the latest Angus Reid Institute results from polling 1,500 Canadians on prayer. Held at the Vancouver Hyatt Regency, dignitaries like Premier Christie Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson brought greetings to over 1,000 B.C. leaders.
Reid, a well-known Canadian pollster, informed us that while weekly church attendance has dropped from 56 per cent in 1966 to 15 per cent, 85 per cent of Canadians still pray, at least occasionally. Reid found that weekly prayer by 40 per cent of Canadians (12 million people) has remained relatively constant over the past century.
Reid said 70 per cent of Canadians who pray frequently say that their prayers are answered always or often, in contrast to just 25 per cent of Canadians who pray infrequently. Those who pray frequently focus more on thanksgiving than in just asking for help, said Reid. Contrary to some stereotypes, he also found that university educated Canadians (33 per cent) are more likely to pray daily than high school dropouts (26 per cent).
Reid’s data showed that new immigrants are twice as likely to be frequent prayers as native-born Canadians. This confirms my experience that new immigrants are much more open to the gospel and attending church. It is no wonder that, according to Jonathan Bird of the Vancouver Consultation, one third of Vancouver churches conduct their worship in languages other than English.
Of particular interest was Reid’s discovery that childhood prayer greatly shapes one’s likeliness for praying as an adult: If you prayed frequently as a child, the chance that you would be a non-prayer today is seven per cent. If you didn’t pray as a child, the odds that you would be a frequent prayer today is six percent. This reminds me as to how faith survived in Russia during the 70 years of atheistic communism.
The key was grandparents who taught their grandchildren how to pray even when their children were officially forbidden to attend Sunday School. Many Canadian parents have bought into the tragic idea that it is better to not expose children to religion or church until they are adults, when they can “make up their own mind.”
Even though I did not meet Jesus until age 17, I was blessed to be taught to pray as a child by my mom, as well as in Sunday School. Prayer was something that I linked with remembering one’s family before going to sleep, and in saying grace at the dining room table when my nana came to visit. Imagine how we might shape the future of Canada if we invested in helping the new generation learn how to pray. If we will prayerfully strengthen the new generation, then prayer will have a Canadian future. Lord, teach us to pray.
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird is the rector at St. Simon’s Church in North Vancouver.