Study shows only 16% of Protestant ministers are

very satisfied with their personal prayer lives

(Original release date:  May 23, 2005)  Research results being released in Facts & Trends magazine show that only 16% of Protestant ministers across the country are very satisfied with their personal prayer life.  Another 47% are somewhat satisfied with it.  Thirty percent are somewhat dissatisfied, and 7% are very dissatisfied with their prayer life.

 

The study, conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona among a representative sample of 868 Protestant church ministers nationwide, asked pastors about their personal prayer lives, including how much time they spend praying, and what they are praying about.

 

The level of satisfaction pastors have with their own prayer life varies substantially by the pastor’s age.  Only 9% of pastors under age 45 are very satisfied with their prayer life, along with 13% of those 45 to 59 years old.  But 30% of all pastors 60 or older are very satisfied with their prayer life – more than three times the proportion of younger ministers.

 

There is not a lot of variation in satisfaction level by denomination.  However, Methodists tend to be somewhat more satisfied with their prayer life than others, and Presbyterians are much less satisfied.  In fact, only 5% of all Presbyterian ministers are very satisfied with their prayer life, and Presbyterians are actually more likely to be dissatisfied than to be satisfied with it.

 

The average Protestant minister prays for 39 minutes a day, although 21% typically spend 15 minutes or less per day in prayer.  Although younger ministers are less satisfied with their prayer lives, this does not appear to be due to spending significantly less time in prayer.  Younger ministers average 35 minutes a day in prayer, compared to 41 minutes among pastors 45 to 59 years old, and 38 minutes among older pastors.

 

Methodists, who are among the most satisfied with their prayer life, spend an average of 45 minutes a day in prayer.  Presbyterians, who are among the least satisfied, spend only 28 minutes a day in prayer.  Lutherans (27 minutes) also spend less time than average in prayer, while Pentecostals (47 minutes) and Baptists from outside the Southern Baptist Convention (43 minutes) spend more time than average.

 

The typical pastor spends 32% of his or her prayer time making requests, 20% in quiet time or listening to God, 18% giving thanks, 17% in praise, and 14% in confession.   These figures also do not vary much according to the pastor’s age or denomination.

 

What does vary quite a bit is specifically what pastors are praying about.  The most common subject of ministers’ prayers is the needs of individual members of their congregations.  Ninety-eight percent of all pastors have prayed about this topic in the seven days preceding the study.  Other topics included the following:

 

· the congregation’s spiritual health – 94%

· spiritual growth for their church – 94%

· wisdom in leading their church – 94%

· personal spiritual growth – 86%

· the right things to say in a sermon – 82%

· the country as a whole – 82%

· personal needs of their own or their family – 81%

· global events (war, disaster, etc.) – 76%

· local outreach or evangelism efforts – 71%

· individual government leaders – 68%

· overseas missions – 62%

· other local churches or pastors – 61%

· numerical growth for their church – 56%

· the financial health of their church – 56%

· financial needs of their own or their family – 50%

· individual Christian leaders – 50%

· persecuted Christians in other countries – 46%

· their denomination (among denominational churches) – 39%

· other topics – 11%

 

There are a number of differences by denomination.  In general, evangelical ministers have a much broader range of things they pray for, being more likely than mainline Protestant pastors to pray for their congregation’s spiritual health (96% to 90%), numerical growth for their church (58% to 43%), the financial health of their church (57% to 46%), the right things to say in a sermon (86% to 78%), personal financial needs (52% to 40%), overseas missions (67% to 49%), local outreach and evangelism (75% to 58%), individual government leaders (71% to 63%), and personal spiritual growth (86% to 78%).  Mainline pastors are more likely than evangelicals to pray for just two areas:  global events such as war or disasters (87% to 72%) and their denomination (57% to 34%).  This diversity among evangelicals is true even though evangelicals spend slightly less time in prayer each day than do mainline pastors.

 

Even within specific denominational groups, there are numerous differences (the study included all Protestant denominations, but six groups – Southern Baptist, all other Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal/charismatic – are large enough to allow individual analysis).

 

Southern Baptists are considerably less likely than average to pray for their denomination, but are average in all other respects.  Other Baptists are particularly likely to pray for individual Christian leaders, numerical growth for their church, overseas missions, and local outreach and evangelism efforts.  Methodist ministers are less likely than average to pray for numerical growth for their church, but especially likely to pray for persecuted Christians in other countries, as well as global events, and their denomination.

 

Lutherans are among the most likely to pray for their denomination and global events, but are far less likely than average to pray for personal spiritual growth, personal or family financial needs, numerical growth for their church, or the financial health of their church.  Pentecostals are more likely than average to pray for other local pastors or churches and personal spiritual growth, and dramatically more likely to pray for personal or family financial needs, church finances, and numerical growth for their church.

 

Presbyterians are more likely than average to pray for global events and their own denomination, but they have a litany of subjects they are less likely than average to pray for:  numerical growth for their church, the financial health of their church or their family, local evangelism and outreach, personal spiritual growth, other local churches or ministers, and individual Christian leaders or government leaders.

 

What defines pastors who are satisfied with their prayer lives versus those who aren’t?  A number of things:

 

· The amount of time spent in prayer:  pastors who are very satisfied spend an average of 56 minutes a day in prayer; those who are somewhat satisfied average 43 minutes; those who are somewhat dissatisfied average 29 minutes, and those who are very dissatisfied average 21 minutes.

· How they divide their prayer time:  ministers who are very satisfied spend considerably less time than average making requests, and considerably more time in quiet time or listening to God – other areas (confession, praise, thanksgiving) are about the same.

· What they pray for:  the more satisfied ministers are with their prayer life, the more likely they are to spend time praying for “big issues” beyond their own lives and churches – overseas missions, persecuted Christians in other countries, local outreach and evangelism efforts, other local churches and pastors, global events, the country as a whole, individual Christian leaders, individual government leaders, and their denomination.  Yet they are no less likely to pray for personal and church needs such as church growth or personal finances.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that pastors seem to have provided a pretty clear roadmap for a fulfilling and satisfying prayer life.  “The study clearly showed that what drives a satisfying prayer life for a minister is spending less time asking God for things and more time listening to what God has to say, praying for issues beyond their own personal and church needs, and spending much more time overall in prayer,” Sellers explained.

 

Sellers added, “These are not minor percentage differences in the study, but major ones – 78% of pastors who are very satisfied with their prayer life had prayed recently for overseas missions, compared to just 40% among those who are very dissatisfied with their prayer life, for example.  These numbers are hard to ignore, and it would be unwise to do so.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 868 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.2 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

 

 

The time to pray is not when we are in a tight spot

but just as soon as we get out of it.

Josh Billings, American Humorist

A PASSION FOR

RESEARCH THAT

MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Grey Matter logo

Time spent in prayer daily, by level of satisfaction with their prayer life…

Personal prayer statistics, by church size and pastor’s age…

Personal prayer statistics, by denominational group…

What they’ve prayed for in the last seven days, by level of satisfaction with their prayer life…

What they’ve prayed for in the past seven days, by church size and pastor’s age…

What they’ve prayed for in the past seven days, by denomination…

 

Measurement

All

Pastors

Very

Satisfied

Somewhat

Satisfied

Somewhat

Dissatisfied

Very

Dissatisfied

Average minutes spent in prayer per day

39 mins.

56 mins.

43 mins.

29 mins.

21 mins.

 

Measurement

 

All

Small

Size

Medium

Size

Large

Size

Age

<45

Age

45 – 59

Age

60+

Satisfaction with prayer life:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very satisfied

16%

14%

16%

22%

9%

13%

30%

     somewhat satisfied

47

52

44

40

49

50

38

     somewhat dissatisfied

30

28

31

33

28

32

28

     very dissatisfied

7

6

10

5

14

5

4

Average minutes spent in prayer per day

39

39

37

41

35

41

38

 

Measurement

Southern

Baptist

Other

Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All Others

Satisfaction with prayer life:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very satisfied

14%

14%

20%

13%

14%

5%

19%

     somewhat satisfied

44

46

51

56

49

38

44

     somewhat dissatisfied

33

34

25

28

27

48

29

     very dissatisfied

9

6

4

2

10

7

8

Average minutes spent In prayer per day

33

43

45

27

47

28

41

 

What They’ve Prayed for in the Past Seven Days

All Pastors

Very Satisfied

Somewhat Satisfied

Somewhat Dissatisfied

Very Dissatisfied

Individual congregation members’ needs

98%

99%

99%

98%

98%

The congregation’s spiritual health

94

97

94

94

90

Spiritual growth for church

94

98

94

92

90

Wisdom in leading the church

94

99

94

93

86

Personal spiritual growth

86

90

86

83

85

The right things to say in a sermon

82

80

82

82

84

The country as a whole

82

88

84

77

75

Personal/family needs

81

74

83

83

74

Global events (war, disaster, etc.)

76

87

79

72

55

Local outreach/evangelism

71

80

71

68

65

Individual government leaders

68

75

68

63

62

Overseas missions

62

78

63

54

40

Other local churches/pastors

61

66

65

55

55

Numerical growth for the church

56

55

55

57

64

Financial health of the church

56

53

59

52

54

Personal/family financial needs

50

48

50

48

59

Individual Christian leaders

50

62

51

44

50

Persecuted Christians in other countries

46

64

47

39

32

Your denomination

37

47

39

31

28

Other

11

16

12

9

4

 

What They’ve Prayed for in the Past Seven Days

 

All

Small

Size

Medium

Size

Large

Size

Age

<45

Age

45 – 59

Age

60+

Individual congregation members’ needs

98%

99%

97%

99%

99%

99%

95%

The congregation’s spiritual health

94

94

94

95

95

94

93

Spiritual growth for church

94

94

93

92

93

93

97

Wisdom in leading the church

94

92

96

96

94

94

93

Personal spiritual growth

86

86

83

88

90

84

88

The right things to say in a sermon

82

82

84

79

88

82

72

The country as a whole

82

85

77

79

82

81

85

Personal/family needs

81

81

83

79

85

82

73

Global events (war, disaster, etc.)

76

76

77

75

70

79

77

Local outreach/evangelism

71

72

64

78

74

69

73

Individual government leaders

68

70

62

67

59

68

76

Overseas missions

62

62

58

64

59

61

65

Other local churches/pastors

61

65

57

55

62

60

62

Numerical growth for the church

56

59

56

49

67

50

60

Financial health of the church

56

55

55

58

64

52

54

Personal/family financial needs

50

53

47

43

59

51

35

Individual Christian leaders

50

53

46

48

45

51

55

Persecuted Christians in other countries

46

52

41

38

35

47

58

Your denomination

37

42

34

28

31

38

45

Other

11

13

7

12

5

12

12

What They’ve Prayed for

in the Past Seven Days

Southern

Baptist

Other

Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All Others

Individual congregation members’ needs

99%

98%

99%

100%

97%

98%

98%

The congregation’s spiritual health

94

94

95

90

98

93

92

Spiritual growth for church

92

93

98

84

98

90

92

Wisdom in leading the church

95

92

98

90

95

96

95

Personal spiritual growth

84

87

88

75

93

69

85

The right things to say in a sermon

87

83

77

82

85

71

77

The country as a whole

80

90

86

85

79

80

76

Personal/family needs

82

86

86

76

83

69

74

Global events (war, disaster, etc.)

74

75

90

92

68

90

71

Local outreach/evangelism

72

82

64

65

74

52

65

Individual government leaders

73

76

67

64

66

52

58

Overseas missions

64

72

57

55

67

61

48

Other local churches/pastors

58

67

55

56

71

46

58

Numerical growth for the church

56

66

46

28

77

34

55

Financial health of the church

54

60

57

39

74

32

53

Personal/family financial needs

50

57

49

30

76

27

40

Individual Christian leaders

46

63

46

42

52

32

45

Persecuted Christians in other countries

44

47

62

55

38

52

42

Your denomination

24

28

49

67

34

61

33

Other

10

15

8

10

5

11

12