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Young Adults' Prayers Lack Repentance and Praise

Researcher Christian Smith's book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, concludes that many young American adults have a faith characterized by "moralistic, therapeutic deism." According to this view of God, if we live good lives and if we're kind to others, then God will provide "therapeutic benefits" to us like self-esteem and happiness. Other than that, God is not involved much in our world.

This view of God has a profound effect on prayer. Smith found that American teens personally prayed frequently; 40 percent prayed daily or more, and only 15 percent said they never prayed. However, their motivation for prayer largely focused on meeting their own needs. Some of the teens interviewed said: "If I ever have a problem, I go pray." "It helps me deal with problems. … it calms me down for the most part." "Praying just makes me feel more secure, like there's something there helping me out." "I would say prayer is an essential part of my success."

But Smith also found that many young Americans' prayers lacked any sense of repentance or adoration. Smith writes, "This is not a religion of repentance from sin." Again, Smith concludes that this "distant God" is "not demanding … because his job is to solve problems and make people feel good. There is nothing here to evoke wonder and admiration."

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