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Styles of Praying

I’ve been wondering if the various contributors to this conversation will have different prefered styles of praying.  A couple analogies come to mind from other aspects of my life. They are: personality profiles like Myers-Briggs and some things I’ve observed about my fellow musicians.

In the Myers-Briggs model I am an INFP. It means my prefered style of interacting is introversion, intuition, feeling, perception. Somehow I got through engineering school where most people are ISTJ; introversion, sensing, thinking, judgment. (I have discovered reference material about the link between personality style and prayer style and will explore this more.) My prayer style is very impromptu and lacks structure. That’s sort of who I am (just ask my wife). I seem to make it up on the go. It’s similar to how I practise guitar. Unless I’m learning a particular song, I prefer to practise with no music. I practise scales and noodle and just make stuff up. Other musicians I’ve known who are really talented, play beautifully until you remove the music from in front of them. Then they stop immediately. We’re different.

I respect that others may like more structure and direction in their prayer life. There is no judgement here (no Myers Briggs pun intended). We are all made wondrously different. So for me the bottom line is to respect the different preferences of the contributors to these conversations. When I contribute to this blog it will often be coming from my place of what I’ve experienced in unstructured prayer. I will strive to add references to resources that enable other preferences. I would appreciate help from all of you to share those that you are aware of.

What is your prefered praying style? Do you like structure and direction or are you unstructured like me or somewhere in the middle?

(image from Richard N. Stephenson)

Mark Perrin

About Mark Perrin

I’m a member of St Martin’s Anglican in Calgary and a director of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer. I’m an engineer by training and consult in the oil patch doing engineering, IT and finance work. I am married and have three children. At church I’m an intercessor and participate in our healing prayer ministry. My spiritual life includes Christianity, the healing arts of Qi Gong, Reiki and Shamanism, and a curiosity about how creation works. In my spare time I occasionally post to this site, play with motorcycles, guitars, computers and model trains.
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0 Responses to Styles of Praying

  1. Wow! I’m pleasantly surprised, Mark, that you would jump into these discussions with your personality profile. I am an ENFP, but I do float between introversion and extroversion, depending on the situation. Taking the Myers-Briggs test was a very important part of my spiritual formation, both confirming my strengths and difficulties, and forcing me to look a little more closely at my own personality and the way I interact with others. Looking specifically at preferred prayer styles this way is a great idea!

    I, too, am most comfortable improvising (NF implies a certain tendency towards trusting one’s intuition). That being said, the discovery of more structured and formal liturgy and styles of prayer was quite transformational for me–and reminds me that while tests like Myers-Briggs do help us understand ourselves, we aren’t slaves to the results. Rather, we can use what we learn as an indicator of where we have room to grow.

    I remember being fascinated by prayer that was not improvised: I didn’t get it, but I wanted to understand. Over time, a deep respect for sharing my prayers with the communion of saints, not separated by distance or time, drew me into a more ordered form.

    Does that mean I have lost myself? No. These days, I prefer a style that is ordered, but leaves some room for me to move around and improvise within it. That sort of balance says something very powerful to me about being Jesse Dymond within the greater Christian community.

    I’m excited to hear from others: how does your personality influence your prayer? Does it change when you pray with others?

    If you are interested in more information about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, look here.

    If you’re interested in taking a personality test, your workplace or school (especially seminaries) may provide the opportunity. It’s a rather arduous process, involving taped interviews, written tests, and evaluation by those trained in the process. On the other hand, if you’re simply interested in an informal test for self-awareness, there are plenty of them online: just Google “Myers-Briggs test” (Keep in mind that these online surveys are are very limited and for educational purposes only).

  2. Wow! I’m pleasantly surprised, Mark, that you would jump into these discussions with your personality profile. I am an ENFP, but I do float between introversion and extroversion, depending on the situation. Taking the Myers-Briggs test was a very important part of my spiritual formation, both confirming my strengths and difficulties, and forcing me to look a little more closely at my own personality and the way I interact with others. Looking specifically at preferred prayer styles this way is a great idea!

    I, too, am most comfortable improvising (NF implies a certain tendency towards trusting one’s intuition). That being said, the discovery of more structured and formal liturgy and styles of prayer was quite transformational for me–and reminds me that while tests like Myers-Briggs do help us understand ourselves, we aren’t slaves to the results. Rather, we can use what we learn as an indicator of where we have room to grow.

    I remember being fascinated by prayer that was not improvised: I didn’t get it, but I wanted to understand. Over time, a deep respect for sharing my prayers with the communion of saints, not separated by distance or time, drew me into a more ordered form.

    Does that mean I have lost myself? No. These days, I prefer a style that is ordered, but leaves some room for me to move around and improvise within it. That sort of balance says something very powerful to me about being Jesse Dymond within the greater Christian community.

    I’m excited to hear from others: how does your personality influence your prayer? Does it change when you pray with others?

    If you are interested in more information about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, look here.

    If you’re interested in taking a personality test, your workplace or school (especially seminaries) may provide the opportunity. It’s a rather arduous process, involving taped interviews, written tests, and evaluation by those trained in the process. On the other hand, if you’re simply interested in an informal test for self-awareness, there are plenty of them online: just Google “Myers-Briggs test” (Keep in mind that these online surveys are are very limited and for educational purposes only).

  3. As a fellow INFP, I understand exactly what Mark is saying. Personality type really does affect how one prefers to pray. When you think about it, there should be no surprise there.
    At a conference on clergy self-care some years ago, our leader asked us to self-identify by M-B type, and then each of the sixteen groups went off to share about their prayer lives. When we reported back to the plenary, it was truly startling to find how consistent each type group was, and conversely how diverse was the whole group.
    A book that helped me understand this better is “Prayer and Temperament,” by Michael & Norrisey. It was published back in the early ’90’s, but is still in print.

  4. I’ll add to that list Oswald and Kroeger’s Personality Type and Religious Leadership (for those who find themselves in such a role). It’s a book from the late 80’s, but personalities seem to cross generations.

  5. In the past, I have used Corinne Ware’s book, “Discover Your Spiritual Type,” as the basis for teaching different approaches to prayer.  She does not use Myers-Briggs, per se, but her delineation of spiritual types follows similar lines.  (http://www.amazon.com/Discover-Your-Spiritual-Type-Corinne/dp/1566991498)

  6. Mark Perrin

    Thank you to all who responded. This kind of feedback with references is what I had hoped for.

     

  7. I’m perfectly comfortable with the recited prayers of the BCP, BAS, and other sources, they’re my church service experience. But I’m equally comfortable with improvised prayers, spoken and silent, as they’re my personal time experience. I was taught both as a child and don’t feel a bias either way. Whatever works, eh!

    The music analogy is interesting. As a musician, it works for me either way.

     

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