Ninety per cent of Americans turn to God, more than half of them once a day or more in times of economic distress and plenty.
They pray for big things - to stay healthy, to keep jobs, and to strengthen relationships. And they pray for small things - to find parking spaces and missing items. Some of them are sure God exists and others pray simply to cover the bases.
Brandeis University study analysed 683 prayers written in a public prayer book placed in the rotunda of the Johns Hopkins University Hospital between 1999 and 2005, according to a Brandeis release.
The study found that prayer writers seek general strength, support, and blessing from their prayers, rather than explicit solutions to life's difficult situations, and, more often than not, frame their prayers broadly enough to allow multiple outcomes to be interpreted as evidence of their prayers being answered.
Wendy Cadge, a sociologist, who co-authored the study found that the prayers fell into one of three categories: about 28 percent of the prayers were requests of God, while 28 percent were prayers to both thank and petition God, while another 22 percent of the prayers thanked God.
The study sheds light on the psychology of the people behind the prayers. Most writers anthropomorphised God, addressing God as they would a relative, friend, or parent, preferring familiarity over deference.
"Most prayer writers imagine a God who is accessible, listening, and a source of emotional and psychological support, who at least sometimes answers back," said Cadge.
These findings were published in the current issue of Poetics.