On a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective Podcast, I had the opportunity to chat with Janet McHenry about how to pray without guilt in a way that aligns with your personality, or finding your natural prayer style. Too often we develop misconceptions about how we should pray. Have you ever thought your way to pray should be like everyone else’s? In today’s post, Janet shares her insights on how to shed the “shoulds” about prayer.

Shedding the “Shoulds” about Prayer
By Janet Holm McHenry

The speaker at the women’s conference was mesmerizing. She was inspirational. And she was going to transform my prayer life. All I had to do was buy the $24.99 prayer notebook that would forever organize my prayer lists into seven divided sections—one section for each day of the week. All I had to do was write down the various prayer requests on a checklist sheet, date them, pray, and then wait for God to answer.

It worked something like this. On Mondays I would pray for immediate family. On Tuesdays I would pray for extended family. On Wednesdays I would pray for people in my work circles, on Thursdays for government leaders . . . and so on.

I dove into this new prayer system enthusiastically and followed that routine for about a month. Then life happened— the life I lived as a mom of four kids, a high school English teacher, and a church volunteer. Exhaustion also naturally fell into place as I tried to keep pace with all that was my life. And then guilt followed because I couldn’t keep up with the daily praying lists and updates. One morning I found myself asleep face down on the prayer binder.

Help, Lord. I’m a prayer failure.

Eventually, though, I fell into the practice of prayer-walking . . . kind of literally. I was out of shape and my joints hurt like crazy. And then one day I walked out my back door and found myself in a crumpled heap because my knee had given way. I knew I needed to do something about my health, so I decided to get up a little earlier the next day and walk. While I walked, I would pray. There was a lot of my-ness in those early prayers until one dark morning when I saw a young man hand over his blanketed toddler girl to the daycare center manager just blocks from my home. As he did, that little girl said, “Bye, Daddy. Love you.” I knew right then that God had me out on the streets of my little town less for the my-ness of my prayers, but more for the needs of others.

So, I began praying for whatever I God put within my eyesight: homes, businesses, schools, commuters. I got healthier physically, and a long season of depression vanished. But I also began seeing answers to prayer in my community. So, I too became one of those people who thought her way to pray should be everyone else’s.

You’ve probably heard people say things like this . . .

  • You should have a prayer journal and write out all your prayers.
  • You should have a prayer closet and go there an hour every day.
  • You should listen to this new prayer app—it’s awesome!

But perhaps my prayer life doesn’t need to look like your prayer life. And perhaps your prayer life doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. Each of us has a distinct, God-given personality. Each of us has had different backgrounds and family practices relating to prayer (or even none at all). Each of us has different ways we communicate and learn.

I believe we can shed the “shoulds” relating to our prayer life by considering how God has uniquely made each of us. We learn this when we study the prayers and prayer practices of biblical people. Moses argued with God. Gideon bargained with God. Hannah and David poured out their laments. Josiah allowed God’s Word to inspire his own confession and prayer to re-establish the people’s covenant with God. And Jesus—our prayer mentor—prayed in many places and times and circumstances and ways.

I suggest that there are four praying personalities:

  • The Problem Solver, who goes to prayer with problems and needs. She is task oriented, and her prayers will be succinct and matter of fact.
  • The Friend of God, who sees time with God as a relational experience. Because she is outgoing and social, she loves to be surrounded with others at prayer time.
  • The Organized Pray-er, also known as the Lamenter, is passionate about prayer, which is a disciplined practice for her. She may use lists or journals, or she may approach prayer creatively with poetry or other visually artistic expression.
  • The Peace Seeker seeks out prayer to bring peace to her life. She sees prayer as an informal experience and may prefer prayer apps or prayer books to jumpstart her time with God with a coffee cup in hand.

From what I’ve observed, most people are a combination of a couple of the above. And because each of us is unique, we can’t be put into personality boxes. Counselors typically agree studies of personality are helpful to understanding ourselves—our strengths and weaknesses, our thinking patterns, and the ways we respond to others and situations. But the best way to understand ourselves is to study God’s Word, where we learn about his love for us and his desire to have a personal relationship with us.

Ultimately, prayer is less about answers but more about access to our loving Creator. And it’s my hope that when we understand our praying personality, that we will find ourselves in a praying-without-ceasing outlook all day long.



About Janet McHenry

Janet McHenry, authorJanet Holm McHenry is a national speaker and the author of 26 books—seven on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, Praying Personalities: Finding Your Natural Prayer Style. She directs the prayer ministries at The Bridge Church in Reno and serves on the California leadership team for the National Day of Prayer. She and her cattle rancher husband, Craig, live in the Sierra Valley in northern California, where they raised their four children and where she walks and prays for her community.

*If you want to learn more about your natural prayer style, take Janet’s Praying Personality Quiz at PrayingPersonalities.com.

Connect with Janet: Website / Quiz / Looking Up! Mini-Magazine / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / LinkedIn / Instagram




Are you tired of feeling pressured to pray a certain way? Janet McHenry shares invaluable insights on letting go of unrealistic prayer expectations and finding your authentic path to connection. Shed the “shoulds” about prayer!