Research on Devotional Practices

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Wed, 03/01/1995
End Date: 
Fri, 12/31/1999

Robert Wuthnow of Princeton University and his colleagues examined the devotional practices of ordinary lay people and explored the roles played by religious institutions in fostering, nurturing, guiding, and at times, discouraging them. Wuthnow and associates conducted in-depth interviews with about 150 men and women with a broad range of ethnic and religious backgrounds. The researchers also interviews clergy and religious leaders and examined a wide variety of published evidence from community studies, biographies, religious periodicals, church documents, prayer books, liturgical guides, and other similar literature. Wuthnow and associates aimed to understand better the ways in which Americans currently engage in devotional practices, their reasons for doing so, and the ways in which these practices have been changing over the past half-century. In particular, five themes were examined in details: (1) habitation, (2), opening out, (3) discipline, (4) miracle/mystery, and (5) inner self. The study intended to help clergy and other interested parties in their spiritual formation efforts.

Wuthnow and colleagues published their findings in two books: “After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s” (University of California Press, 2000), and “Growing Up Religious: Christian and Jews and Their Journeys of Faith” (Beacon Press, 1999).