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Who You Are Affects How You Pray



by Janet Holm McHenry

 

The speaker at the women’s conference was mesmerizing. She was inspirational. And she was going to transform my prayer life. All I had to do was buy the $24.99 prayer notebook that would forever organize my prayer lists into seven divided sections—one section for each day of the week. All I had to do was write down the various prayer requests on a checklist sheet, date them, pray, and then wait for God to answer.

 

It worked something like this. On Mondays I would pray for immediate family. On Tuesdays I would pray for extended family. On Wednesdays I would pray for people in my work circles . . . and so on.

 

I dove into this new prayer system enthusiastically and followed that routine for about a month. Then life happened—the life I lived as a mom of four kids, high school English teacher, and church volunteer. Exhaustion also naturally fell into place as I tried to keep pace with all that was my life. And then guilt followed because I couldn’t keep up with the daily praying lists and updates. One morning I found myself asleep face down on the prayer binder.

 

Help, Lord. I’m a prayer failure.

 

People have all kinds of advice about how, when, and where prayer should be incorporated into a believer’s life. They tell others what they do, convinced that their own praying practice is the be-all and end-all for everyone. I even do this, because I get so excited about how my life has changed because of how I pray. However, perhaps a praying lifestyle can come naturally to people in different kinds of ways that mesh best with their unique personalities.


Over 25 years ago the simple practice of prayerwalking changed me. I lost two dress sizes and those aches and pains. Depression that had clouded most of my adult life disappeared, and paralyzing fears did as well. But prayerwalking also shifted my mindset. Because I prayed for what I saw when I walked, I learned that wherever I am, there’s a need for prayer, so my prayerwalking helped me have more of a praying-without-ceasing lifestyle. Instead of having a prayer life—pockets of time for prayer—I began to have a praying life.


Because the changes in me were so dramatic, I tried to convince others to give prayerwalking a chance. Many have over the years, and many are sold on the practice. However, here’s the thing I discovered: a prayerwalking lifestyle works for me, but it may not work for many others. Each of us is different in personality, daily routines, and interests.

 

I fell into prayerwalking rather circumstantially after years of trying prayer journals and notebooks (I couldn’t keep up), scheduled prayer sessions (I fell asleep), and creative prayer drawing (I can’t draw). But after years of studying praying people in the Bible and realizing they all approached God differently, I believe it’s possible to find a praying lifestyle that will work for the rest of our life—a natural practice that makes sense with our God-given personality.

 

So we can shed the guilt about not living up to others’ or even our own expectations for prayer. We can shed the guilt about falling asleep or getting distracted during prayer time or losing track of prayer lists. Each of us has a unique personality, so the manner in which we pray and the expressions we use will be different. We see this from biblical people’s lives. Here are a few examples:

 

  • Moses argued with God. He didn’t want to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity (Exodus 3-4).

  • Hannah prayed emotionally: not only “look on my misery” (1 Samuel 1:11 NIV) but also “my heart rejoices” (1 Samuel 2:1 NIV).

  • Josiah allowed the Word of God to inspire prayer that reestablished man’s covenant with God (2 Kings 22-23).

  • Many biblical people fasted when they prayed, such as Ezra and Nehemiah.

 

In Praying Personalities I suggest there are four praying personalities:

  • The Problem Solver, who goes to prayer with problems and needs. She is task oriented, and her prayers will be succinct and matter of fact.

  • The Friend of God, who sees time with God as a relational experience. Because she is outgoing and social, she loves to be surrounded with others at prayer time.

  • The Organized Pray-er, also known as the Lamenter, is passionate about prayer, which is a disciplined practice for her. She may use lists or journals, or she may approach prayer creatively with poetry or visually artistic expression.

  • The Peace Seeker seeks out prayer to bring peace to her life. She sees prayer as an informal experience and may prefer prayer apps or prayer books to jumpstart her time with God—with a coffee cup in hand.

 

From what I’ve observed, most people are a combination of a couple of the above. And because each of us is unique, we can’t be put into personality boxes. Counselors typically agree studies of personality are helpful to understanding ourselves—our strengths and weaknesses, our thinking patterns and the ways we respond to others and situations. But the best way to understand ourselves is to study God’s Word, where we learn about His love for us and His desire to have a personal relationship with us.

 

Ultimately, prayer is less about answers but more about access to our loving Creator. And it’s my hope that when we understand our praying personality, that we will find ourselves in a praying-without-ceasing outlook all day long. 


Janet McHenry helps others develop a deeper relationship with God through the study of His Word and a praying lifestyle. A national speaker, she has authored twenty-six books—seven on prayer, including Praying Personalities: Finding Your Natural Prayer Style. She loves connecting with others on social media and her website: www.janetmchenry.com.

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