01/04/2008

Prayer and Temperament (by Chester P Michael and Marie C Norrisey)

I knew nothing about Chester P Michael or Maria C Norrisey. Neither have websites, and there's very little about them online. Apparently he is a Roman Catholic priest who does a fair amount of writing, and she is his editor. Twenty years ago I would have tended to avoid books written by Catholics, but nowadays two of my favourite Christian authors (Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen) are Roman Catholic.

I bought the book on the strength of a recommendation elsewhere. 'Prayer and Temperament' attempts to reconcile the differences of temperament, as described by David Keirsey, Linda Berens and others, with preferred and most helpful methods of Christian prayer. It's based mainly on a big survey that was taken, discussing various methods of reading the Bible and praying, and correlating with each person's personality type in the Myers-Briggs system.

It mainly deals with the four temperaments (Idealist/NF, Artisan/SP, Guardian/SJ and Rational/NT) as proposed by Keirsey, and the different ways people find easiest to relate to God. There are useful broad descriptions of the needs and strengths of each temperament, and explanations of different methods of praying, with specific recommendations.

The methods described were more formal than I am familiar with, but still made a lot of sense. My temperament is Idealist; the authors suggest that the Idealist finds it easiest to read the Bible using the creative imagination, as if the words were being spoken today, to us as individuals. It suggests prayerfully writing down passages of Scripture, using one's own name to pray it through and medidate.

For Guardians, it is proposed that the easiest method is to use the 'sensible imagination', to imagine oneself transported back into the Biblical scenes, hearing the sounds and smelling the scents of the time, and observing the events. For Rationals, questions and probing into the words of Scripture is suggested, and for Artisans, the suggestion is to consider the events and actions surrounding characters of Scripture, and also to allow natural beauty - sunsets, blossom, mountain views, etc - to trigger praise and worship.

There's a lot more than that, of course. Each of these broad styles is related to one of the church fathers who prayed in this manner, and it's also recommended that people of each temperament try out all the methods, when feeling relaxed and unstressed. There are some specific examples at the end of each chapter, and an appendix at the end looking at each of the sixteen Myers-Briggs types and their likely methods of prayer and worship of God.

There is also some examination of the four main Jungian functions (Sensing, Intuition, Feeling and Thinking), and how they work both in a regular and transcendent way, and there are sections looking at how we were when stressed, and how to develop our lesser functions.

The book was well laid-out, and clearly written with persuasive arguments. I could relate easily to what was said about Idealists, and was pleased to see that each type was treated in a positive way. On the other hand, I felt there was a bit of a muddle about how the functions worked, not really considering both the extraverted and introverted uses of them. I also noticed that in the type recommendations, about twelve of the sixteen types were told that they would benefit from a 'Cursillo' weekend - something I have never heard of, and which may not be available outside American Catholic settings.

Overall, I thought it well worth reading and would recommend it to anyone struggling with certain forms of worship or styles of church. It was encouraging to see how different styles are appropriate to different temperaments, and to remember again that God made us all differently - and thus would not necessarily expect the same style of worship from different people.

Not currently listed as being in print in either the UK or USA.

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