It was time to gather in a circle, hold hands, and take turns praying out loud. My friend, Annette, glanced over at me and whispered, “Oh, how I dread this part of the prayer class.” As I grabbed her sweaty palm, I could hear her stomach churning. Everyone appeared comfortable and confident. Not Annette. She stood there paralyzed, gripped with fear, and afraid to open her mouth. She anxiously looked at me, “What if I say something that sounds foolish or is not very spiritual? What if it’s not perfect?”
When we don’t take into account our own unique personality, even as it applies to praying, we begin to compare ourselves to others, feel we don’t measure up, or think we are praying incorrectly. We can feel intimidated and choose to not even try. Some personality types feel uncomfortable praying with people they don’t know well. Others seem to be an open book and love to hear themselves talk, while others would rather have someone else pray for them. Some are bold and enjoy taking charge.
Annette’s approach to prayer revealed her personality type - Perfect Melancholy. She loved to pray quietly each morning in her special place at home, with her Bible and other resources close by. She prayed from prayer lists which she updated weekly along with any praise reports. Annette especially liked analyzing biblical charts, tables and maps which gave her a broader historical understanding of the countries she prayed for each week. She also enjoyed doing biblical word searches, learning about different kinds of prayers, prayer warriors and methods of praying, and admired those who seemed to voice their prayers so effortlessly.
Even though Annette was generally satisfied with her approach to prayer, she felt her prayer routine had become too much of a habit, instead of how Billy Graham described prayer: “simply a two-way conversation with God.” Our prayer class made her aware she needed to relax and not consider prayer a performance that God was expecting from her. Annette realized she wanted to experience God Himself, not merely to check off completed prayer assignments. She desired an intimate relationship with God where she could dialogue freely from her heart about all matters of life. I understood Annette’s frustration and wanted to help.
I reminded her of what A.W. Tozer said, “So when we sing, ‘Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,’ we are not thinking of the nearness of place, but of the nearness of relationship. It is for increasing degrees of awareness that we pray, for a more perfect consciousness of the divine Presence.”
For several months, Annette and I met regularly to pray, inviting the Holy Spirit to join us, and faithfully waiting for God to make Himself known in a personal way to each of us. We were never disappointed.
Annette’s approach to prayer began to change. She still works with prayer lists at special prayer times, but more often finds herself spontaneously writing out prayers, singing songs of praise, and connecting with God throughout the day, listening to His still, small voice. When I last saw her she beamed, “I am experiencing His presence in a deeper way now and am enjoying a sweet fellowship with Him.”