Appreciating Our Spiritual Differences

by Francis MacNutt
Nov/Dec 2002

And there was silence in heaven for about
half an hour (Rev. 8: 1 b).

I hope this little article sets some of you free from needless guilt. It all begins with the fact that, by temperament, we are all either expansive and talkative by nature - or reflective and quiet. Psychologists use the terms' "extraverted" ("turned outward") or "introverted" ("turned inward"). Most people in the U.S. ( one fourth is the estimate) are introverted, making introverts feel as if they don't belong, as if something is wrong with them. But each of the temperaments has a wonderful gift element connected to it. Extraverts are the kind of people who love parties, conversations and phone calls. They usually have many friends. When a party is over at 11 p.m., they feel disappointed at having to leave. Introverts, on the other hand, usually do well to have a few close friends and are looking for a way to leave the party early, so they can go home and read a book before going to bed. Extraverts have their batteries charged by being surrounded with people, while introverts feel their energy drain away when they are with people too long.

But what does this have to do with healing?

A lot.

One of our teachings is that we are not to slavishly imitate others in their style of praying. Find out how God uses you. An ancient principle of Christian spirituality is that, "Grace builds on nature." For instance, if God has given you a compassionate personality and you are the kind of person who makes a good counselor, God is also likely to give you a gift of praying for inner healing. Because of these God-given differences, we also have different gifts of prayer and develop different styles of prayer.

People who are outgoing tend to pray in expressive ways. For many reasons charismatic-Pentecostal churches and prayer groups tend to be outgoing, characterized by loud expressions of joy and praise. These praises are often shouts of "Glory," and their prayers are directed to God. They thank God for what he has done, they picture themselves in heaven as in those scenes in the Book of Revelation where the saints are praising God for hours on end. And they chanted night and day, never taking a break ... " (Rev. 4:8 in The Message translation). By its very nature, the experience of being filled with the Spirit and praying in tongues lifts us on the wings of joy and thanksgiving.

But an introvert's preferred attitude of prayer is not so much concentrated on what is said to God but is directed to listening to what God might be saying to us. For this we need to be quiet and tum inward, the very opposite of speaking and shouting our praises to God. In the midst of loud praise the quiet person, instead of being inspired, might very well be silently thinking, "Be quiet. I can't pray." You can see this in church after communion. Extraverts want to sing; introverts want to kneel down, shut their eyes arid find God within themselves.

In an ideal world, each one of us would have a balance in our prayer lives, sometimes being outgoing and, at other times, turning inward to listen to God. But since we tend to prefer to one side or the other, the best thing we can do is to find a church or prayer group that is attuned to the Spirit, but whose style of prayer also suits us.

The sad thing -and the reason I write this little article-is that because introverts in the U.S. are the minority (as distinct, say, from England), they may feel that they don't belong in the great movement we see today where so many people are experiencing the Baptism of the Spirit and the wonderful charisms that God is so generously pouring out. Outgoing Christians talk about the "Chosen Frozen," and, truly, some may be frozen and barely alive (spiritually), but I think some are simply quiet and put off by what seems to be shallow and noisy. Often these are the very ones who have been praying the most over the years and are really the deepest of us all.

All I am suggesting is that we need to be sensitive to the differences in how Christians pray best and that we do not cut off those in the minority who are perhaps best able to listen to God. If only we were less judgmental, and included them somehow in our groups, and then be blessed by what they hear God saying to them.

As a remarkable example of the quiet gift of prayer, I remember visiting Agnes Sanford in her home towards the end of her life, and she quietly told me how she prayed by herself every morning. She then told me how that very morning Jesus had appeared and taken her to visit heaven. She described what the streets were like -how the walls were made of something like a brilliant, solid, colored light. Not a trace of pride, just a very quiet sharing. It was a truly awesome, unforgettable moment in my life.

Heaven fell quiet - complete silence ...
(Rev. 8:lb, in The Message)

In regard to how our temperaments affect our spiritual lives, I recommend Why Can't I Be Me? by Canon Mark Pearson (Grand Rapids, MI, Chosen Books, 1992). (See page fifteen for more information and ordering.)

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Nov/Dec 2002 Issue