A new poll from LifeWay Research focusing on prayer revealed some surprising trends concerning the way Americans do--or do not--pray.
The poll, sponsored by popular pastor and author Max Lucado, surveyed 1,137 Americans and found that when people aren't busy praying for themselves or their own needs - and most of them are - many are seeking divine intervention on behalf of a favorite sports team (13%) or a lottery win (21%).
According to other main findings:
* 48 percent of Americans pray every day
* 82 percent who pray typically pray about family or friends
* 20 percent pray for people of other faiths or no faith
* Equal numbers of Americans (7 percent) pray behind the wheel, either for a good parking space or not to get a speeding ticket
* Smaller numbers of people, around 5 percent, pray for someone's relationship to end, someone to get fired or for someone else to fail.
Those who live in the Southern states (31 percent) are twice as likely as Northeasterners (15 percent) to say all of their prayers have been answered. African Americans (38 percent) also have a greater propensity to say this than whites (22 percent) and Asian Americans (19 percent).
"Most people pray when they need the red phone for help," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. "But their prayer life isn't a habit rooted in a relationship with God.
Overall, one in four Americans report that God answers all their prayers, while eight in 10 say at least some of their prayers are answered. 30 percent of Protestants said God answers all of their prayers, and 87 percent said God answers at least some. Only 3 percent of Protestants said their prayers are never answered.
However, while only two out of five Americans pray for "my own sin," as do half of Protestants (51 percent) only one in five Americans (20 percent) pray for people who do not share their faith; one in four Protestants (26 percent) pray for non-Christians.
Only 12 percent of Americans say they pray for government officials.
Shortly after the survey's findings were released, Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham urged Christians to take prayer and intercession very seriously, as it is the most powerful weapon against the powers of darkness.
"There should be a sense of urgency in our prayer life" writes Graham, "An understanding that we "do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). The prince of darkness is grimly and powerfully at work in world affairs, and prayer is a great battlefield-especially as we pray for those in leadership."
The importance of prayer is the topic of two books slated for release: Max Lucado, whose book "Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer" came out Tuesday (Sept. 30), and New York City megachurch pastor Tim Keller, whose book "Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God" will be published Nov. 4.