In the April Issue of Readers Digest, an essay on “How and Why We Pray” quotes two NDSP grantees, Elizabeth Drescher and Tanya Luhrmann. The article, which takes a closer look at prayer practices in various communities around the United States, examines the ways in which prayer practices have evolved more recently. 

Prayer is ubiquitous in America because it’s so flexible and customizable. Says religion scholar Elizabeth Drescher, a faculty member at Santa Clara University in California, “Among the traditional religious practices, prayer allows the most individual autonomy and authority. That’s especially resonant in our culture, which values personal choice”…”Recently, we’ve been seeing a shift toward more informal but also more imaginative prayer,” says Tanya Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Indeed, if they were alive today, pontiffs of the past would no doubt have been confused and amused by one of the first official actions of Pope Francis.

The author, Lise Funderberg, references the ways that media influence has changed prayer—from a congregation in San Francisco writing prayers in chalk on the sidewalk, to Pope Francis’ first tweets, days after ascending to the papacy, to what is perhaps most ubiquitous nowadays, people using Facebook to ask for prayers and to pray together. 

Read the full piece here