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If You Don’t Pray Properly, Can God Hear You?

Research shows doubt.

People say God knows everything, but adults and children may actually believe something quite different.

That’s one of the surprising findings from research with children and prayer being conducted by Rebekah A. Richert, associate professor of Psychology, and director of the Childhood Cognition Lab, at the University of California, Riverside.

Richert studies how religious teachings actually affect children’s ideas about God. Her research with children, ages 5-8, is showing that as parents pass on religious prayer practices, their children may be reaching theological conclusions they aren’t trying to teach.

One of her questions was whether parents and children thought God could hear them if they didn’t perform certain prayerful actions, such as bowing their heads or kneeling.

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“The parents tend toward ‘probably God can hear you,’ not ‘yes, definitely,’ ” she said in a recent interview. That’s the first surprise.

The second surprise came from the children. “The kids are mostly saying, ‘No, God really can’t hear you if you’re not doing …(prayer the way it’s most often taught).’ ”

So strange as it may seem, prayer rituals may cause people to be less confident that God actually is all knowing.

Christine Wicker is an author and a journalist. 

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