‘God gives me reason to hope’: why young Britons are turning to prayer

More young people in the UK are turning to prayer compared with 20 years ago, with one in three 18- to 36-year-olds saying they had prayed within the past month, a survey has revealed.

The rise of mindfulness and spirituality in its many forms are thought to be behind the increase.

Here, six young people share their perspectives on prayer – why they do it and what it offers them.

‘With the world crumbling, God gives me reason to hope’

Tess Williams Photograph: Tess Williams

Since getting pregnant, I’ve come back to prayer. I was raised Christian and have come back to it from time to time. But this time things feel different. With the world crumbling, God has given me a reason to hope and see beyond the hopelessness of our current political and financial landscape. It’s quite a scary time to be bringing a baby into the world with all the uncertainty – the financial situation and working out what kind of world he’s going to be born into is quite scary. Prayer has really helped me to take myself out of those world problems and see things in a broader context. Tess Williams, 32, midwife, London

‘My attitudes to spirituality have softened’

I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian family and given how extremely religious my upbringing was, I left the church when I moved out, feeling quite angry about how little say I had in the extremity of the religious rules I had been expected to follow. But over the years I’ve found my attitudes to spirituality have softened and I’ve spent the last few years building my own beliefs on my own terms.

Kai Lee Photograph: Kai Lee

As an animist-pantheist I see existence as part of God, and therefore all living beings are sacred to me – as are all gods and spirits from all traditions. The main thing I get from this way of praying is a sense of being part of a community of people existing on multiple levels. Rob, 32, software developer, Glasgow

‘I pray to remind myself of the larger picture’

The world seems quite a miserable place now and I find prayer to be a source of hope and power. I’ve been quite involved in the community activities of the Bahá’í Faith since young, as well as observing its religious practices such as fasting and daily obligatory prayers. It motivates me to care for others and contribute my efforts to the betterment of society. I pray to remind myself of the “larger picture” – that there is something greater than my day to day hustle. I try not to ask for specific things, but rather for me to be at peace with the will of God, or the “Universe”, whatever you call it. Kai Lee, 28, architectural designer, London

‘Faith helped me process my dad’s death’

Shahin Ali Photograph: Shahin Ali

I’ve always tried to be good Muslim but after coming back from Mecca and Medina in 2018, I’ve felt a much closer connection to my faith. It was something I had wanted to do for a while and since going I’ve read a lot more about Islamic history and how it connects to other religions. Praying makes me realise there is a bigger picture and greater purpose and importance to life than just me. Now, it is something I look forward to and would often plan my day around. My dad passed away last year from with Covid – having my faith helped me process it and realise that this life is a journey. Shahin Ali, 35, teacher, Chester

‘I connected with faith after seeing priests on TikTok’

I used to go to church with the Scouts when I was six or seven but it was never regular – I didn’t really understand what was happening when I was that young. I wasn’t brought up in a religious family and I didn’t have a relationship with faith until recently, when I started seeing videos by priests on TikTok. After I saw that and became interested, I could understand it a bit more. I wanted to connect with faith because I wasn’t happy with the way my life was going, and I wanted to be better to other people. Developing my spiritual health has made me feel happier. I pray because it’s a way I can speak to God and give him my worries or concerns. I’m not involved with a particular church – I’m just trying to find my place at the moment. Thomas, 18, student, Wakefield

‘I use prayer as a grounding technique’

Lucy Armstrong Photograph: Lucy Armstrong

Growing up, I would go to church with my parents but as I got older I had my own plans and stopped. I rediscovered faith after I went to university when I joined the Catholic society – it was good way of not feeling homesick. I live a busy life but I still use prayer as a grounding technique, just like some people may use meditation or apps like Headspace. Some weeks I may only pray to Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things, as I’ve done something like lose my bank card or my favourite pair of trousers. Other weeks I really make time in my day for more serious prayers. My partner’s grandparents died in the first six months of the year and this really increased how much I prayed. Lucy Armstrong, 23, London