A survey of over 2,000 adults in the UK has shown that more than half of young people have been praying online during the pandemic. Apparently, large numbers have been turning to religion during the lockdown after places of worship were forced to close to help curb the virus.
The survey by Savanta Comes showed that more than half of young people aged 18 to 24 were engaging in online worship (such as watching services on YouTube and Facebook) and also 45 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds and 49 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds prayed at some point during July 2020.
This is similar to findings of an international study early on in the pandemic which concluded that, ‘In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for comfort and explanation.’
We know that everyone has a sense of the eternal, and a spiritual hunger that is often filled with anything other than God himself. In recent months, many of those entertainments and diversions have been unavailable to young people, even after the lifting of some lockdown restrictions. At the same time, the global pandemic has raised many questions of what life is all about. The crisis presents the world with the reality of its mortality; it causes people to wonder whether there is an afterlife and how to survive death and come out the other side.
This increased interest in prayer is a sign of a spiritual appetite that we should be addressing with the good news of Jesus Christ. We should always be confident in the truth and relevance of the gospel, but seasons such as this present special opportunities when God is ‘shaking the tree’. So if your church is broadcasting its services and other content, be encouraged! And keep going with producing biblically faithful, culturally appropriate, material. God is using these means to call a new generation of disciples to himself.
Alongside these encouraging signs, we need to be careful not to mistake an interest in ‘spirituality’ or religion for genuine, biblical faith; it is a start, but it needs to go deeper.
Accessing information about Christianity through the internet is a user-controlled experience; each person interacts with the gospel on their own terms and it therefore increases the possibility that in so doing they will pray to a god of their own design, one who fits their own personal expectations. Of course, we have seen that God can and does use such online interactions, but the experience does not contain the same dynamic as when physically present in a room where someone is proclaiming God’s word and where the options for ignoring it are much more limited!
Even so, we are thankful for the evidence from this survey of many more people connecting with gospel truth, however tenuous the link might be. We need to pray that God would be at work to humble those young people and cause them to realise that they are not simply having a religious experience, but a genuine encounter with the living God that will change them forever.