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Monday, May 21, 2012

"Praying with the Grain" (Pablo Martinez)

TITLE: Praying with the Grain: How Your Personality Affects the Way You Pray
AUTHOR: Pablo Martinez
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2012, (176 pages).

Why is prayer so easy for some people, and difficult for others? Why are some people uncomfortable about praying in public? How do I learn to pray with pleasure rather than pressurize ourselves to pray? Is there a way to pray in a way that befits how we are created, like our personality types? What about prayer as a psychological projection? Are Christians imagining a divine person in their prayers? These questions and many more are tackled in this very insightful book about personality types, psychology, psychotherapy, Christianity, temperaments and how prayer can be therapeutic and also spiritual.

In this book, Pablo Martinez describes the psychology and the apologetics of prayer. In Part One, "The Psychology of Prayer," Martinez highlights three factors that directly affect our praying, namely; our temperament, our personality, and our circumstances. All of these are not separate entities but play varying roles according to the interactions of our mental, emotional, and spiritual being. For temperament, Martinez uses Carl Jung's classification of two general attitudes (introvert, extrovert) and four psychological types (thinking, sensation, feeling, intuitive). For instance, introverts tend to prefer praying in private while extroverts are comfortable in public prayer gatherings. Introverts prefer meditation while extroverts work better through activities. The author is careful to point out that such classifications are simply tendencies rather than totalities.

Psychological Profiling

Jungian Four Personalities
On the psychological profile, Martinez believes that while everyone exhibits a little of thinking, of sensing, of feeling, and of intuition, only one trait is dominant. The problem occurs when there is an imbalance of all four to the point that this dominant trait grows at the expense of the rest. The healthy condition is for the dominant trait to be strengthened and not undermine the rest. For example, while we can cultivate our strengths, it is good to be aware of our weaknesses. We can train ourselves in such a way to train ourselves accordingly, knowing our psychological tendencies. This helps immensely when it comes to relationships. With this understanding, thinking types tend to be more objective over the subjective. The Apostle Paul and Martin Luther are thinking types.

At the other end of thinking, there is the Feeling types that use emotions more expressively than the thinking types. Feelers are more sympthetic to social causes and reactive to injustice they see. For them, they step forward with heart first. The biblical character, Jeremiah is an example of Feeling personality.

Then there is the Intuitive type that sees the possibilities, contemplate better, and more apt toward the presence of God in prayer. Mystics like Theresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, are known as intuitives. The missionary David Livingstone is also another example. Intuitives shun methodical praying, preferring freedom in approaching God.

On the other end of the vertical spectrum is the sensation which responds more readily to external senses. For them, perception is key in their seeing, their hearing, their touching. While they can enter into prayer quite readily, they are also susceptible to the ups and downs of everyday living.

The three recommendations that Martinez gives are the need to accept ourselves as we are, accepting one another, and to strike a "temperamental balance."

The rest of Part One deals with how the various temperaments and personality types interact with regards to overcoming difficulties and therapeutic element of prayer.

Apologetics of Prayer

Part Two addresses two basic questions. The first is about psychology and prayer. The second covers the comparison between Christian prayer and Eastern meditation. In it, Martinez engages a challenging aspect of psychological versus prayer, painstakingly distinguishing one from the other, clarifying the purposes of each and how they can complement, not supplant each other. There is a powerful explanation that prayer is not another form of "self-suggestion" because of three factors. First, unlike self-suggestion, the purpose of prayer is not evasive from reality, but seeking a known God. Second, the object of prayer is not a hysterical or "uncritical compliance" designed to please man but a journey toward God in peace, order and balance, zeal and fire.Third, the duration of prayer outruns that of self-suggestion. Prayer is also not behaviorism which is essentially us growing out or away from something, but growing in love more toward God. Martinez finishes his book with a brief comparison of Christian prayer and Eastern Meditation in terms of differences in purpose, means, and how it leads to valuing the person concerned.

My Thoughts

This book is rich. It dives in deep into explaining the psychological and temperamental traits of a person without becoming lost in the psychotherapy world. In fact, the author makes it a point to constantly check back on Christian principles and biblical perspective of it all. Even the analyses of each personality profile are measured carefully. It is clear that the author does not want to paint a picture of a one-size-fits-all scenario for all readers. Instead, the author invites us to consider the different personality types, understand the nuances, and the importance of depending on the Holy Spirit to show us ourselves. He deals with some of the most difficult questions asked.

  1. Is pain a spiritual or psychological problem?
  2. How do we make sense of feelings in prayer and intercession?
  3. Is it ok to ask for things for ourselves?
  4. How do we know God's will?
  5. What to do with bad thoughts in our praying?
  6. How do we avoid over-analyzing things when we pray?
What Martinez is trying to drive at throughout the book is that prayer is not only necessary but a vital return back to the first relationship we have with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Everyone of us can pray, albeit differently. The book is more descriptive rather than prescriptive. What is missing are some basic questionnaires that can help readers at least to get some snapshot of their own tendencies. For after reading and appreciating the different prayer personality types, I am still not sure where I am. Moreover, while Martinez affirms the unity of the mental, the body, and the spirit, his wholesale adoption of Jungian concepts makes it challenging for the reader in knowing how to integrate them intuitively. It gives me a feeling of the book being easy to understand but difficult to apply.

What is more helpful in the book is the way Martinez answer the various questions regarding overcoming difficulties in prayer, prayer and psychology, eastern meditation and Christian prayer, and the various apologetics. If that is your area of interest, this book is a must read.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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