The number of searches for “prayer” on Google has increased worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a professor based in Denmark.
Jeanet Sinding Bentzen of the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen says interest in the term on the search engine “skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when Covid-19 went global”. Using Google Trends data on internet searches for the keyword “prayer” for 75 countries, Dr Bentzen found that “search intensity for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 new cases of Covid-19”. The findings are part of a draft study titled In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the Covid-19 Pandemic and will be updated with new data “regularly”, she said.Dr Bentzen said she wanted to observe whether the outbreak was impacting “one of the deepest rooted of human behaviours — religion”.
She said she wanted to know if the pandemic “has intensified the use of religion” globally, given that the virus has affected more than 200 countries to date. The data-timeline showing “search intensity on ‘prayer’ is flat before a country registers its first case of Covid-19”, and then drastically rises after the first case is registered in a country for all regions of the world, she writes. “The increases in prayer intensity documented here are the largest the world has experienced since 2004, the earliest date for which the Google Trends data is available,” she says. Dr Bentzen concluded that “we humans have a tendency to use religion to cope with crisis. The Covid-19 has proven no exception”.
James L Rogers, chief communications officer at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said on April 3 that “mentions for the USCCB on Twitter increased 2,783% and the number of Facebook followers increased 172%”. He added “the number of incoming messages to our Facebook account increased 177%. Many of the messages were prayer requests or advice on prayers”.