By Richard Wagner

Prayer is simply communicating with God. There’s nothing magical at all about Christian prayer; it’s matter of fact.

However, Christian prayer is more than just telling God your list of requests and expecting him to answer your prayers like he’s some kind of cosmic vending machine. Yes, prayer is a way to share with God what’s on your mind. However, even more important, it’s a way to get to know God and what he wants to do in your life and in the world.

When you study the Bible, you find people praying left and right, but the subject of prayer itself is actually rarely addressed. A filled ball is essential to playing basketball, but it’s also so obvious that nothing need be said about it. In the same way, prayer, or talking with God, is so natural that it’s a given in the Bible.

Although the Bible doesn’t talk specifically about prayer methods, you do notice that the manner in which people prayed has changed through the ages. In the earliest of times, people like Adam, Noah, and Abraham prayed in a very familiar and direct manner to God and tended to focus on the practicalities of life. But from the time of Moses through the rest of the Old Testament period, prayers tended to be more formal and less focused on personal needs and more on national issues related to the Israelites.

Christian prayer has its origins in the prayers of Jesus, particularly the Lord’s Prayer. Christian prayer in the New Testament becomes more focused on the spiritual needs of individuals, such as the cleansing of sins, physical healing, and equipping of individuals with spiritual qualities to live like Christ. Prayer in the New Testament is also quite intimate and even goes so far as to tell you to call God your Daddy.

Nowhere does the Bible list any specific rules on how to pray. Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians each have their own distinct traditions of prayer. The refreshing and liberating fact is that God is not much concerned with how you pray; he’s more interested in what you pray about and what your attitude is while you pray.

Surveys of U.S. adults and teenagers by Barna Research Ltd. from 1991–2001 revealed the following statistics about people’s prayer habits:

Who prays?

  • 82 percent of adults and 89 percent of teenagers pray in a normal week.
  • 88 percent of women and 75 percent of men pray in a typical week.
  • People living in the South and Midwest pray more than those living in the West and Northeast (around 86 percent to 76 percent, respectively).
  • 96 percent of born-again Christians pray weekly, while 72 percent of people not describing themselves as born again pray on a weekly basis.

What do people pray about?

  • 95 percent of adults thank God for what he has done in their lives.
  • 76 percent ask for forgiveness for specific sins.
  • 67 percent spend time in prayer worshiping God by praising his superior attributes.
  • 61 percent ask for help for specific needs.
  • 47 percent are silent during prayer to listen for God.

What do people believe?

  • 89 percent of adults believe “there is a god who watches over you and answers your prayers.”
  • 82 percent of people believe that prayer can change what happens in a person’s life.

When and how much do people pray?

  • An average prayer lasts just under five minutes.
  • 52 percent of people who pray do so several times a day.
  • 37 percent of people say they pray once a day.
  • 21 percent have extended prayer time with other family members (25 percent among Protestants and 13 percent among Catholics).
  • 33 percent of adults regularly participate in a prayer group or other meeting that has a focus on prayer.