This week has reminded me of Ecclesiastes 3:8. There has been a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Many of us are still processing the resignation of our Holy Father Pope Benedict the XVI… and with Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s day and the first Friday of Lent happening in rapid succession…well, our minds and hearts have been on a bit of a roller coaster.
Even though I’m still a bit dizzy, I’m relieved to be entering Lent this year, as a desperately welcomed chance to go into the desert to find Jesus and be still and listen. To prepare for that, I recently embarked on my first official appointment for spiritual direction. My spiritual director suggested that I should begin by identifying my prayer temperament (I had not heard of this before). She loaned me her well-loved copy of a book aptly titled “Prayer and Temperament” and I have been feasting on it ever since. I thought I’d share a little about it for those who might benefit, too.
The science behind “Prayer and Temperament” began with the Myers-Briggs Test Indicator in about 1974, which I’ve only ever understood in the context of Psychology alone. About 30 years ago, the author of the book Msgr. Chester Michael, worked on a study called the “Prayer Project” where he sought to find the connection between psychology and spirituality. Since then he has established an Institute for Spiritual Direction and his findings have been applied in thousands of retreats and workshops. If you would like to try this out, here is the MBTI online to help identify your personality type.
Of course, each of us are uniquely made, and no one person will fit into a box of human design. This is obviously not an exact science, but it can provide a good idea of where your strengths lie in your approach to prayer.
Msgr. Michael groups the main prayer temperaments within Benedictine prayer, Ignatian prayer, Augustinian prayer, Franciscan prayer, Thomistic Prayer, but others are mentioned in the book such as Trinitarian prayer, Marian devotion and Teresian spirituality. Once you take the MBTI, you can look here to determine which style you may fall under, and learn more about which forms your temperament may prefer. For cradle Catholics like myself who have not absorbed the beautiful knowledge and wisdom that so many others have strived to attain my advice would be to do a little reading and stretch your spirituality this Lent. Allow yourself to experience a style of prayer that you have not tried before, just get your feet wet and see where God leads you. Reach out to your parish priest if you would like some guidance in getting started, and visit your parish library for great resources for your journey. Don’t be intimidated!
Some prefer scripted prayers, some prefer contemplation and meditation. Some enjoy spontaneous prayer or the holiness of daily work. Some marvel at nature. Some delight in music as prayer. Some enjoy reading, some enjoy writing, some are called to be speakers and leaders in ministry. Our Creator has made us all to be different, but all of us come together in Mass as one family, one body in Christ, as servants to further His kingdom on earth. Relish in how God made you, and the gifts which He gives you. Offer your best to Him in prayer, almsgiving and service this Lent. May we all be blessed with a memorable and meaningful Lenten season!
How do you love to pray?