By Aaron Earls
While many Americans say they pray when faced with a major life decision, even more say they rely on their own research, according to a new study on religion in everyday life.
In the internet age, fewer than half (45 percent) spend time in prayer and personal religious reflection before such a choice, but 82 percent say personal research provides guidance, according to Pew Research.
Eight in 10 highly religious Americans—defined by Pew as those who say they pray every day and go to religious services at least weekly—say they use personal research to help make their decision, but 86 percent also say they spend time praying about it.
The highly religious are also more likely than other Americans to say they rely on advice from family (49 percent to 42 percent) and advice from religious leaders (33 percent to 8 percent). They are less likely to say they sought advice from professional experts (22 percent to 26 percent).
Among Christians, evangelicals and members of the historically black Protestant tradition were significantly more likely to say they spend time in prayer over a major decision.
Seventy percent of evangelicals and 78 percent of black Protestants say they rely on prayer. Only 39 percent of Catholics and 38 percent of mainline Protestants say the same.
Those same differences exist within religious groups between the nominal and devout.
Among evangelicals, 90 percent of the highly religious say they rely on prayer, but only half (50 percent) of other evangelicals say the same.
With mainliners, 80 percent of the highly religious rely on prayer, while only 26 percent of others agree.
For Catholics, more than three quarters of the highly religious (77 percent) use prayer for their decisions, while 27 percent of the other Catholics say they rely on prayer when making a major life decision.
While 87 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say they rely on their own research, almost 1 in 10 say they turn to prayer and personal religious reflection when facing a major life decision.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.