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Does prayer work? Is there an afterlife? TODAY survey asks about faith

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By Scott Stump, TODAY 

(NBC News) - Who (or what) is God?

Does prayer work?

Is there an afterlife?

Can you be spiritual and not religious?

These are just some of the questions TODAY is asking this week in the series "Do You Believe?" An in-depth look at faith and spirituality, this series will examine the many ways spirituality can be communicated and displayed, and feature real-life stories of survival and how faith played a role.

An exclusive TODAY survey on these questions reveals a snapshot of what faith in America looks like today, as more than 1,500 people weighed in with their thoughts on spirituality, God, the afterlife and the power of prayer.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they are certain God exists.

Of that group, 54% believe that God is a force or spirit that does not take a physical form, while 27% see him as a man, 12% believe God is a human in some form, 6% think God takes some other shape or form, and 2% believe God is a woman.

A majority of those surveyed believe the power of prayer is real, as 76% say it can heal. Roughly half (54%) said they pray regularly, while little over a quarter (27%) said they pray only in a time of need. Of those who believe in God, 94% believe God watches over them.

Respondents seemed to indicate a need to believe in things larger than themselves: 81% of those surveyed said they believe in miracles, 76% believe in angels, and 65% believe in karma.

Spirituality is a regular part of the majority of Americans' lives, as 60% of respondents said they practice meditation or read religious texts.

Seventy-six percent also believe that it is important to raise a spiritual child, and 70% of adults identify with a religion.

While 87% of respondents believe that you can be a different religion than those you love, in practice, 73% share the same religion as their spouse.

One question on many people's minds as they get older was also asked: Is there an afterlife? Of those surveyed, 55% said yes, and 76% believe there is a heaven. Of those who believe in heaven, 68% think they will go there when they die.

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