When I first started getting into my faith towards the end of high school, I knew I needed to start praying regularly, but figuring out how to do that was a struggle. I heard a lot of different people saying different things about what a prayer life should look like. Some of it I really connected with, and some of it I didn’t. And when I didn’t connect with a particular prayer form or routine, I was like, “Well, I’m/this is the worst, probably should just give up.” It wasn’t until several years later when someone introduced me to the reality of different “spirituality types” that I understood why my experience of prayer was so tumultuous.
I think that sometimes as Catholics we think that everything we do needs to be the same… and there’s some truth to that. The tenants of our faith, the basics of the liturgy, how we are called to live according to the Gospel, all are universal. As a Church, we share those things in common: “this mystery [of faith], then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.” ~Catechism of the Catholic Church 2558I. I think the word “personal” is key there because prayer is personal- sharing our person with the person of God. He created us to be in relationship with him, and he created us each uniquely. That means that we were created to each have a different-looking personal relationship with God. Not because God is different, but because each one of us is. Similarly, none of our human relationships are the same- not because we change who we are around others but because none of the people we are in relationship with are the same. So, that means that not one type, or one way, or one routine, or one form of prayer will work the same for everyone. In fact, St. Ignatius of Loyola says that “there is no greater mistake in spiritual matters than to force others to follow one’s own pattern.”
Throughout the development of Christian spirituality, there have emerged many different religious communities and spiritual paths. These have developed around different personalities, saints, and ways of serving and connecting with God. There are countless paths, (or at least, I didn’t count them) but four main ones that could be considered “pillars” and from which others stem: Franciscan, Augustinian, Ignatian, and Thomistic. They are foundations to both religious communities and lay spiritualities. These four spiritual traditions have also been connected with the four dominant Myers Briggs personality traits. There’s a really great book written about this called “Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types” by Once we understand how we best pray, we then have the framework and tools to really move forward in our relationship with God.
Once I discovered that I was an “Augustinian” pray-er, I realized I didn’t have to spend time trying to pray in other ways that usually left me discouraged and unfulfilled. I had a spiritual director for a while who was guiding me through the Ignatian spiritual exercises. That kind of prayer is very structured, and works well for a large percentage of people. But for me, that much structure stresses me out and makes me feel constricted. So during that time of spiritual direction, I never did what I was supposed to, got discouraged when I didn’t do it (ever), and viewed that form of prayer more as a chore than a gift. Now, I focus my energy on what works for me- silent, reflective prayer, listening, journaling, being in the presence of God in Adoration, or peacefully in nature. While I don’t do it as much as I should, it’s where I really grow closer with God, hear him speak to me, and feel fulfilled. My personality needs that reflective, peaceful prayer because my usually distracted mind takes a while to quite down and focus (I mean for example, it’s taken me three weeks to sit down and write this post). If I jump into prayer without taking time to be quiet and present, I don’t really pray, I just go through the motions. Understanding what spirituality type you are isn’t meant to restrict you into one way of praying, but hopefully enable you to discover more about how God created you to relate to him, and then give you the tools to really grow in your relationship with him. If you’re curious to explore what spirituality type you might be and what that means for your prayer life, here’s some tools and resources:
1. Your Spirituality Type
You can figure this out in a couple of ways:
- If you know your Myers Briggs type, you can check out this chart:
- Or, you can take this Prayer Type Quiz. Note that “Path of Intellect” is Thomistic, “Path of Devotion” is Augustinian, “Path of Service” is Franciscan, and “Path of Asceticism” is Ignatian.
- And finally, you can read though the different spirituality types and decide which one sounds most like you.
Fine Print: After reading through your type you might decide that it doesn’t really sound like you- and that very well could be the case! You know yourself best, and these quizzes/categorizations aren’t meant to dictate something about yourself you don’t feel is accurate. Also, just because we connect most with one way, doesn’t mean that you can’t also pray in other ways or benefit from other types of prayer. We could also be a combination of a couple. Use your results as a starting point, and see how your prayer life grows, and adjust as necessary.
2. Learn About Your Type
- Here’s a very helpful and detailed summary of each type, how they fit with the Myers-Briggs types, and some examples of different prayer: Discovering Your Prayer Personality
- Here’s a short summary of each type (also linked earlier).
- Here’s a blog series I found (thanks Google) on each type: Augustinian, Thomistic, Ignatian, & Franciscan.
Finally, you might find it interesting to learn about the saint your spirituality type is based off of. You’ll probably see some similarities in yourself and be inspired by their awesome lives: St. Augustine of Hippo (Augustinian), St. Thomas Aquinas (Thomistic), St. Ignatius of Loyola (Ignatian), and St. Francis of Assisi (Franciscan).
Happy Praying! 🙂