PRESS RELEASE: Being Christian

The Presidential Prayer Team
Official Press Release

Survey Reveals Prayer Distinguishes Christians from Other Adults 

SCOTTSDALE, Az., July 21, 2020 – What does it mean to be a Christian in America these days? To answer this question, The Presidential Prayer Team, a non-partisan, non-profit organization commissioned a two-dimensional study that included both an outward look for the general public and inward look at prayer team members. 

This first study, the outward look, engaged “average” Americans so that the prayer team could learn how to better reach and how to better communicate with the general public about prayer. This national study discovered that the question can be answered in different ways – and produce different perspectives.  

Defined by Beliefs 

One way of defining what it means to be Christian would be to examine the beliefs and practices of those who identify as Christians and compare those responses to those of people who do not claim to be Christian. Highlighting substantial differences in beliefs and religious behaviors between self-described Christians and those who are not would produce a portrait of what attributes are most likely to distinguish Christians from other people. 

Upon comparing more than three dozen beliefs and practices addressed in the survey, the ten factors shown below not only characterize a large majority of the self-described Christians, but also differentiate them most dramatically from other Americans: 

  • God exists and is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules that universe today: 69% of self-identified Christians adopt that view, compared to just 21% of other adults 
  • The Bible is the only true and authentic word of God (67% versus 20%, respectively) 
  • The Bible is the ultimate and final moral authority (61% compared to 18%, respectively) 
  • Personally pray during several days in a typical week (72% versus 28%) 
  • Believe that prayer helps people cope with situations (61% versus 17% called that a very accurate description of their view) 
  • Prayer is their way of communicating with God (71% compared to 19% called that a very accurate description of their view) 
  • Prayer is central to their relationship with God (64% versus 14% called that a very accurate description of their view) 
  • Prayer is a way of worshipping God (64% versus 15% called that a very accurate description of their view) 
  • They pray for the country every week (64% versus 24%) 
  • They pray for the people in their lives, such as friends, family, co-workers, and their community (79% vs. 31%) 

While there was no single factor that perfectly differentiates between self-described Christians and other adults, those ten factors together effectively differentiate between the two population segments. 

That list of factors also shows that two elements – beliefs about the reliability of the Bible and beliefs and practices related to prayer – are primarily what distinguish self-identified Christians from other Americans. Views and practices related to prayer, in particular, emerged as the most unique distinctive of the faith of self-identified Christians. 

The survey also revealed that segments within the self-identified Christian population – such as born-again Christians or those who attend evangelical Protestant churches – are minority groups within the aggregate Christian community (and thus not truly representative of the larger body of people who claim to be Christian) that have an even larger body of distinctives from the general population. 

Faith Background 

An alternative approach to understanding what it means to be Christian these days is by asking those who claim to be Christian what that association means to them. The survey found that the answers vary widely, with no response garnering support from more than one out of every three respondents. 

The most common response was “to have a personal relationship with God based on salvation through Jesus Christ.” That view was offered by 33% of the self-identified Christians. The next most frequent answer was “being a good person and trying to do what you think is right.” That view was adopted by one-quarter of the self-identified Christians (24%). 

Each of three perspectives was embraced by about one out of every ten self-identified Christians. Those views included “praying to God regularly” (mentioned by 11% of the self-identified Christians); “believing the Bible to be true and to be the primary guide for your life” (11%); and having been “raised in a Christian family” (10%). 

About half as many adults provided one of two other points of view. Five percent of the self-identified Christians indicated that being Christian is synonymous with being American since Christianity is the dominant religion in the nation. Another 4% equated being Christian with attending church services regularly. 

The personal background of respondents was also related to perspectives about what it means to be a Christian. For instance, people who attend Protestant churches were most likely to define being Christian as having a personal relationship with God, through Christ. However, Catholics were most likely to describe being Christian as being a good person and trying to do what is right.  

Age-wise, people 18 to 29 years old were more likely than older adults to view Christianity as being about personal goodness while older adults leaned more toward a relationship with God as the defining characteristic. Politically, those who are conservative were the most likely to see Christianity as defined by a relationship with God, while both moderates and liberals considered Christianity to be about being and doing good. 

Other Faith-Related Findings 

The Presidential Prayer Team survey also discovered in this first public study that many of the traditional religious beliefs common in America are no longer so common. 

Belief in a traditional, biblical view of God – that He is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules that universe today, has declined to a small majority of adults (55%). In fact, less than half of some population segments embrace that description of God. An example is adults 18 to 29 years of age; only 43% agree with that description of God. Other segments for which a minority holds an orthodox view of the nature of God include political liberals (40%), Hispanics (47%), and residents of the western states (47%). 

While about two out of every three adults (64%) believe they will experience Heaven after they die, barely half of those (35%) contend it will be solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Non-traditional beliefs about the afterlife have been gaining steam in recent years. For instance, 12% now argue that there is nothing after this life; upon death you simply cease to exist. Reincarnation – the belief that a person will return to earth in a different life form or as a different person – is now embraced by 7% (one in every 14 people) even though less than 1% of the public aligns with any of the eastern religions that promote reincarnation. The flux in the public’s thinking about life after death is evident in the 17% who say they do not know what will happen to them after they die. 

Challenge to Enhance Prayer Lives 

“Taking the ‘spiritual temperature’ of praying Americans in this first public study reinforced for us that The Presidential Prayer Team has our work cut out for us as we approach reaching more of America in the future,” said James Bolthouse, the team’s president and CEO. “We expected some of these results from the outside look but other outcomes from the research clarify the relative importance and role of prayer in people’s lives. Because prayer emerged as the most widespread spiritual activity in the country, we look forward to helping people enhance their prayer life and reap the benefits for their spiritual journey and life experience.” 

About the Research 

The research was developed and implemented by George Barna, Director of Research of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. The survey was conducted among a nationwide sample of 1,000 adults associated with an online survey panel managed by Braun Research. The demographic profile of the survey results reflects that of the adult population of the U.S., as determined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. 

The two-dimensional study was commissioned by The Presidential Prayer Team (PPT), a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Phoenix as part of Pray The Vote.  

The second and much larger study – yet forthcoming – will be an inward dimension. The focus will be on a larger segment of prayer team membership in order to learn ways to better encourage their members, provide helpful prayer resources, and to improve their prayer life during the upcoming election season and into the future. 

Since its inception in 2001, The Presidential Prayer Team has become the nation’s largest intercessory prayer movement. Regardless of party politics and ideology, The Presidential Prayer Team is dedicated to encouraging and facilitating prayer for the nation’s president, political leaders, and military leaders. It seeks to ignite a lifestyle characterized by robust prayer based on its belief that prayer will transform the nation, one heart at a time. 

More information about The Presidential Prayer Team and the national survey can be accessed at or  

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