How your personality affects the way you pray is the tagline that goes with Praying with the Grain by Dr. Pablo Martinez. That connection with prayer and personality is what attracted me to read this book.
The first chapter does the best job of looking at prayer and personality. Martinez is a Christian psychologist. His personality approach is that from Carl Jung. The application to prayer looks at the introvert to extrovert continuum, thinking to feeling continuum and the sensation to intuition continuum.
Not being an expert in psychology nor Carl Jung, I appreciated that Martinez wrote in every day language and gave insight into how each personality engages in prayer. Introverts find it easier to pray on their own. I knew that, but never really had given that much though how that plays out. Dr. Martinez helped clarify those issues in understanding my prayer life and those of different personality types. Extroverts find it difficult ot pray. Thinkers are able to focus their thoughts in prayer, while feelers are challenged with the whole discipline of prayer.
As he writes about Christian prayer, his intent is to relieve the burden or guilt of one’s prayer life and to pray with the grain, the way God has wired you. For myself this was the book’s greatest benefit.
In addition he includes chapters in the book that deal with the suggestion that prayer is a psychological illusion. (It’s not.) He also focuses on the question: Are all prayers alike? They are not. He does a great job in his closing chapter of contrasting Christian meditation with Eastern meditation.
Throughout the book there were quotes I underlined and wanted to save. There are prayer classic quotes from Teresa of Avila to .C. S. Lewis to Richard Foster. Martinez own words are worth quoting. Here are some of my favorites in the book:
“Prayer is primarily an expression not of my inner well-being, but of my love towards God. I do not pray when I feel well; I pray because I love the Lord.”
“In one sense, prayer is a pleasure to enjoy, but in another sense, it is a discipline to be practiced because it belongs to the essential armor of the Christian soldier.”
“Prayer ought to be the result of an inner spiritual life: not just the search for a magnified tranquilizer.”
“When a believer sees prayer only or primarily as the instrument by which to obtain things from God, they have not understood the very essence of prayer.”
“Prayer enables us to rebuild the very foundation of our existence, and gives back to a person th etrue purpose of their life: relationship with God.”
“Prayer is the eyewash that clears up our vision and enables us to perceive the reality about ourselves.”
“Prayer fulfills a central purpose in the Christian life: it makes possible our progressive likening to the image of Christ.”
I recommend this book for those who want to take a closer look at their own prayer, and to grow deeper in their relationship with God. Affirming and describing how this happens is the strength of this book.
If I could have made one suggestion to Martinez, it would have been to go even deeper into the personality factors and prayer. He gives a great general description and its well worth reading, I was hoping for a bit more. The book was originally published under the title Prayer Life published in 2001. This edition is an update and revision. For this reason I give Praying with the Grain 4 out of 5 stars. If you would like to read an excerpt from the book, click here.
My thanks to Kregel Publishing for a free copy to review. I was not required to give a positive review. Most of all thank you to Dr. Martinez for helping me (and hopefully you) to grow in my prayer life, especially to see it’s not what I get from God, but how I grow in my relationship with God.