The Body As Sign

The following is an excerpt from Embracing the Body: Finding God In Our Flesh and Bone, and kicks off the virtual blog tour this week. I offer you this part of the book as a look into why I believe our bodies are so important, and so deeply necessary to life with God—not only for ourselves, but for bringing of the Kingdom of God here and now.

If you’d like to get a copy of Embracing the Body, you can buy it here.




In his pioneering teachings titled The Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul II wrote that “he body, in fact, and only the body is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”It is only in our bodies that we experience God at all, without them, we cease to exist. When we focus only on our “spiritual lives”—the interior realm of thought and feeling—we lack a foundational understanding and attentiveness to that which is at the center of our very lives, the only vehicle through which God reaches us and we reach others: our incarnate, bound in time, utterly beloved bodies.

When we try to split ourselves in two, to separate our bodies from our souls, we do violence and make difficult the healing of our bodies. This is something that modern medicine is only recently beginning to realize, as more and more hospitals encourage practices of prayer, meditations and silence as ways of facilitating physical healing. Hospitals have historically been places where worship or faith have no place, especially in the lives of the doctors bringing the healing work, and the split between body and soul is rigid, painful. So often, doctors and nurses burn out because they are not allowed to experience themselves as fully human—body and soul—even as they try to bring holistic healing to those they tend.

So, too, do we feel this fissure in the Church. This time from the other side, the Church insists through silence that we focus on the soul instead of the body, as if the two could be fully separated. In the Church, we insist that the body is somehow separate, not something to be brought into the life of the community, and in so doing we watch clergy and those in ministry run ragged with fatigue, living unhealthy lifestyles that lead to the slew of moral and ethical failures that grab headlines today. Whether it’s the body without soul (hospital) or soul without body (the modern Church), we’re living in part, not in full, and at the depths of us, we know it.

Sadly, we have lived with this schizophrenia of self for a long time. Bound by our bodies but told to ignore or castigate them, the lives of the faithful—mine included—have been marked by a set of false dichotomies that categorize actions into “sacred” or “secular”, “spiritual” or “physical”, as if the two are not ineluctably intertwined. We live our bodily lives—eating, sleeping, touching, weeping—with a whispering sense that we are experiencing the sacred in these mundane moments, in the way the soup tastes on our tongue or the tender touch of a friend to comfort. We intuitively feel that the aches in our joints are communicating something larger of God’s presence to us, but we are told (explicitly and implicitly) to ignore these murmurs in favor of something more spiritual, more holy.

In the midst of this brokenness, the exile from our bodies in which we find ourselves, Isaiah stands in bold proclamation:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4, NRSV)

God is about the work of redemption, he proclaims. He is about binding up the broken pieces of ourselves. Every piece reclaimed from our hearts and souls and minds all the way through our maligned and misappropriated bodies. God is about the work of liberation from the yokes of oppression, and it is in our very bodies that we are to be free, whole, restored. These bodies of ours have been treated as ruined, lost, devastated and unable to be redeemed. And yet the Lord of all creation is coming for them, indeed, has given to each of us the work of rebuilding these ancient ruins, reclaiming the very fortress of our selves, our blood and bones and skin and muscle, from the devastations of the fall and of our mishandled attempts at holiness. God is about this work, and we are called to see it and to receive it.


Just A Note

This have been quiet here for the past few months. My daughter was born in early September, and the final edits on my book, Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone, were due at the beginning of October. I had hoped to finish the Enneagram & Prayer series before going on maternity leave, but the Father had a different plan.

Although our little family is still journeying into our new rhythms (the Night Offices are a dear companion in this season), I thought I’d stop in to say hello to the Anam Cara Community and let you dear ones know that the Series will continue when we find our way to what God has for us in the present of our lives. I’d like to tell you when that will be, but as I’ve been staying in prayer it’s been clear that receiving God’s love and comfort means not pushing or setting deadlines right now. Instead, to walk into Christ’s love is to live rest with our little one, and to be alongside those who have trusted me with their God-story as their spiritual director. When there is grace and space, the Enneagram series will be back. In the meantime, I humbly ask for your prayers and your support—sleep is a rare commodity in our lives at the moment. But we are filled with Love.

The Enneagram & Prayer: Type Five

Type Five

The Intense, Cerebral Type:
Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
Type Five in Brief

Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.

  • Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
  • Basic Desire: To be capable and competent
  • Enneagram Five with a Four-Wing: “The Iconoclast”
  • Enneagram Five with a Six-Wing: “The Problem Solver”

Key Motivations: Want to possess knowledge, to understand the environment, to have everything figured out as a way of defending the self from threats from the environment.

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), detached Fives suddenly become hyperactive and scattered at Seven. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), avaricious, detached Fives become more self-confident and decisive, like healthy Eights.

Source: The Enneagram Institute: Type Five

Type Five: The Investigator

With Type Fives, we move into the Thinking Center of the Enneagram. The Thinking or Head Center is where Type Fives, Type Sixes and Type Sevens go when they lose touch with the core of who they are. Each of the three Types in this center retreat to their heads in different ways, but each is reacting to and out a place of Fear. Where the Heart Center (2-3-4) struggle with Shame, Head Centers do their best to hide or attack the fears that plague them.

Type Fives are actually the most introverted of the nine Types. Fives are deeply motivated by the need to know or understand. They are exceptionally good at research, and will be the ones who are most able to be objective, perceptive and wise. Type Fives are trustworthy and kind; their integrity is one of the most important things for them to maintain.

Type Fives value their inner order, so much so that new information often disturbs and discomforts them. Type Fives need time to integrate new ideas, feelings or experiences into their own inner world, and will regularly withdraw in order to have space to make sense of things. Although they are stereotyped as bookish or intellectual, Type Fives are observers whose focus may be on a particular topic rather than a mode of research.

Because they fear being hurt, Fives strive to reduce their vulnerabilities. Although they can often articulate their feelings quite perceptively, that doesn’t mean that they’re actually in touch with those feelings as they compartmentalize with great skill. Type Fives are often the most difficult to engage with on an emotional level because they value their privacy so highly—they simply won’t share how they are feeling until they feel completely safe with you. Fives have a passion for absorbing information; they often feel like they have a bottomless pit inside of them that they seek to fill with knowledge, resources, observations and collections. More than other types, Fives are collectors—stamps, wine, books, pictures or simply odds and ends that seem important to they.

That bottomless pit inside of a Type Five leads them to feel like they are unwanted and they often experience a great deal of emptiness inside. This leads to their voracious consumption of information and observation. (Type Fives often need glasses earlier than other types, and can often be either casual or professional photographers because “taking” pictures fills them, even temporarily.) Because they take a long time to process, people close to a Type Five can feel ignored or cocooned in silence as the Five assimilates new information and attempts to make a decision by themselves. Fives are afraid that if you give people an inch they will take a mile, so they often refuse to give even a millimeter. The root sin of Type Fives is avarice, which, unlike gluttony, doesn’t have to do with material goods or worldly possessions, but rather an insatiable desire to hold on to what you have, not sharing or giving to others. Type Fives are often seen as “takers” rather than “givers”, and find parental roles particularly difficult.

Type Fives are a particular gift to communities and to the world. When they are operating in a healthy, balanced place, Fives let go of their fear of being vulnerable and offer their considerable powers of observation and reflection to the world. Type Fives make excellent counselors or support people—they have the ability to listen to others for hours on end, taking in information, synthesizing and absorbing all that they other person is giving. And then, with their great stores of knowledge and wisdom, Fives will shift the perspective in such a way as to bring truth and freedom to others. At their best, Fives help others make wise, whole-hearted and objective movements into the world and into relationship.

Type Fives & Prayer

Although Type Fives will enter spiritual direction as a way of learning more about God and about themselves, they are a particularly difficult Type for most directors to journey with. This is because Type Fives are so interior and private that the very thing that makes spiritual direction most successful—vulnerability and transparency—is deeply threatening and frightening to an average Five. Those in relationship with a Five have to be careful to give them space to incorporate new ideas and information without rushing them into a response, while still encouraging them to open up and share the raw places within themselves. Some prayer types that are most useful for a Type Five:

  • Prayers of Compassion
  • Prayer of the Senses
  • Prayer of Belovedness
  • Conversational Prayer
  • Prayer in Groups

Prayers of Compassion

Although Type Fives can be incredibly perceptive of the feelings and responses of others, their fear tends to drive them away from truly encountering the suffering of others. A particular practice of prayer that is helpful for this type is a prayer of compassion—prayer that engages the imagination on behalf of those who are struggling, in pain or in grief. Type Fives might start this type of prayer by imagining the experience of those far away from them (women sold into sexual trafficking in South East Asia, families who have lost everything in political conflict in unstable countries), calling to mind in vivid detail what it might look like and feel like to be with that person or people in those circumstances. While this imagination can seem exploitative if left at this point, Type Fives need to take their imagination first to heart (to feel and experience the suffering) and then to God in prayer.

Eventually, Type Fives will be able to transition this prayer to those are are in their immediate surroundings, as imaginative prayer for those in their circles and communities who are experiencing heartbreak, sickness, oppression and loss. As they do this, Type Fives will be motivated to move toward their area of integration and move into the world like an average Eight, as their prayers shift to compassionate action on behalf of others.

For Type Fives, this type of prayer can be summarized in these words: “Lord, break my heart for the things that break Your heart.”

Prayer of the Senses

As Observers, Type Fives like to take in the world through their eyes. They read, they watch, they take pictures. Prayers that integrate their whole selves into communion with God (and with all their other parts) are therefore deeply valuable—and sometimes very difficult and frustrating for a Type Five. Prayers of the Senses are prayers that use the senses as a form of attending to God and His goodness in the world. To pray this way, we engage all of our various ways of absorbing the gifts around us—taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing—in a holistic experience of the present moment. An easy way to start this type of prayer is to eat meals mindfully, to intentionally slow down your eating so that you can absorb all the various tastes of the food in your mouth, the smell of the nourishment that is coming to you, the way things feel in your mouth. Paying attention in this way naturally leads to wonder, thanksgiving and praise—have you ever really tasted a fresh raspberry? It’s hard to not turn toward God in worship.

Prayers of the senses are an engaged form of prayer that focuses on the gift of the now, releasing problems and worries, and, most importantly for a Type Five, fears. To be in the present moment with God, engaging the senses right now rather than analyzing or worrying, helps a Type Five to receive God’s love and overwhelming care for them in their places of emptiness.

Prayers of Belovedness

That place of emptiness in a Type Five can lead to further withdrawal and isolation. Type Fives need a long time to assimilate new information; they can often be skeptical or cynical until they’ve done their own research. Prayers of Belovedness, prayers that acknowledge the One who hung the stars also deeply cares for the Type Fives specifically help to move Type Fives away from filling their own emptiness toward letting God fill them.

This prayer can take the simple form of breathing in and out the words, “I am the beloved of God.” This can start with just a few moments of this prayer, but it even more transformative if it stretches into minutes or long periods where this prayer simply moves through all parts of yourself in deep communion with God.

Another way to practice this prayer is to take the words of the Father in Matthew 3:17 (And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”) and allow God to speak them to you specifically. This involves spending time with the passage, allowing the words to penetrate. God does say of you that you are His child, whom He loves, with whom He is well pleased.

Conversational Prayer

Because they spend a lot of time in their heads in an introverted, alone space, Type Fives often benefit from developing a conversational prayer life with God. This is different from simply giving God a laundry list and going—which isn’t a good relational strategy for any relationship, let alone that with God. Instead, this type of prayer takes the time to dialogue with God about what God is feeling or thinking about a particular issue or topic, and responding conversationally.

For those who haven’t had experience of a conversational relationship with God, some suggestions I make for beginning are things like starting out this type of prayer by journaling. Explore your thoughts and feelings about something on paper, and then invite God to speak into the situation. Write down the words or ideas that you feel like you hear from God; don’t worry about getting it “wrong” or “right”, just allow the voice of the Divine to share. I particularly recommend Frank Laubach’s book, Letters from A Modern Mystic, if you’re looking for a way to begin the conversational journey with God.

If writing out your prayers feels artificial, simply set aside some time to have a real conversation with God. Ask God questions, aloud or silently, about what God feels about simple things. It’s helpful to chose things that you know the answer to, because if you hear something other than some version of “yes” to a question like, “Do you love me, God?”, you know that there are voices other than God’s speaking. Be creative in this type of conversation, and practice patience as you wait for God to speak. It may take a while to get used to, but it will be fruitful.

Prayer in Groups

The most introverted of the types, Fives find sharing their prayer life with others particularly fearful and difficult. Thus, prayer in groups is a huge stretch for a Five, whose interior world is a place where very few are allowed to visit. Praying in groups of safe people, even if the prayer is silent, is a very helpful exercise for Type Fives. The ability to be with others as they speak to God helps a Five to stay in the moment and to release the fear of being judged or praying “wrong.” It also develops in a Five the ability to enter into the conversation with God by overhearing how others speak to Christ. Sharing this intimate space may be a long, slow journey for a Five, but doing so opens them to intimacy with others and with God. Starting with simple presence—attentive silence without needing to add words—is a helpful beginning, as it takes the pressure off of a Five to articulate what’s going on inside. Once a certain comfort level has been reached, Fives can be encouraged to share their prayers with the group in a more ad hoc manner. Praying in groups is particularly helpful in situations where no feedback is given after the prayer. This time without response allows the Five to assimilate all that she or he has experienced in a way that feels life-giving instead of threatening.

Another Note On Prayer:

Type Fives cope with their feelings of inadequacy or incompetence by retreating from the world and defending themselves against it. This response to their perceived powerlessness actually serves to increase their distance from reality, rather than inviting them into the world to move and shape things and discover how they in particular are a vital expression of the Kingdom of God. In prayer, anything that grounds a Type Five in the present moment—the experience of the now—is deeply important, because it takes them out of their minds and into the spaces where they can most readily experience God’s love and provision for them. Because of their defenses, Type Fives often feel uncared for by God. Type Fives do well to remember that God is their protection and their provision, to hear God’s words to Abram as God’s words to them, as well: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1, NIV)


Type Five Playlist

(developed by Jennifer Brukiewa of Attending Grace Ministries)

Now it’s your turn.
Are you a Five?
What prayer forms have proven most helpful for you?
What ways do you struggle with prayer and your relationship with God?
Share with us in the comments.

Sources: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram and Spiritual Direction: Nine Paths to Spiritual Guidance by James Empereur, The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, and Using the Enneagram in Prayer by Suzanne Zuercher.  

 Interested in more? You can read about the other types by clicking on the image below.



PS If you haven’t joined us already, please consider signing up for Anam Cara’s newest eCourse, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, which starts on July 7. There are only a two days left to register!  



The Ennegram & Prayer: Type Four

Join me in welcoming back the Enneagram & Prayer series! Thanks for your grace as I’ve taken a needed break. Type Five will be posted next Wednesday, July 2. Today, enjoy reflections on Type Fours and Prayer.

Type Four

The Sensitive, Introspective Type:
Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temeperamental
Type Four in Brief

Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.

  • Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
  • Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an identity)
  • Enneagram Four with a Three-Wing: “The Aristocrat”
  • Enneagram Four with a Five-Wing: “The Bohemian”

Key Motivations: Want to express themselves and their individuality, to create and surround themselves with beauty, to maintain certain moods and feelings, to withdraw to protect their self-image, to take care of emotional needs before attending to anything else, to attract a “rescuer.”

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), aloof Fours suddenly become over-involved and clinging at Two. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), envious, emotionally turbulent Fours become more objective and principled, like healthy Ones.

Source: The Enneagram Institute: Type Four

Type Four: The Individualist

Part of the reason the series has been suspended has been life circumstances—but part of the reason is that the hardest type to examine, pull apart and evaluate honestly is your own. As a Type Four, I’ve had to do my work to ensure that these resources, prayers and information aren’t coming out of places of disintegration and scrambling for me, especially as I’ve encountered my own blocks to prayer and relationship with God.

Type Fours are the final of the heart-centered triad. Of all the types, they are the most connected to and aware of their own feelings—often to their detriment. Fours can be so attached to their feelings that they live in them, rather than in reality. Alternately, they seek situations, relationships and circumstances that heighten their connection to their emotional world, they gravitate toward what other types would call “drama.”

Type Fours are often called the “artists” of the Enneagram, which can surprise some Fours who don’t have any connection to the more traditional art worlds. Although many Fours have found some type of artistic expression, Fours are called “artists” because they shape, script and form all of life. The active inner world of the Four projects outward on their expectations and hopes of others. Unlike Ones who have a concrete Ideal in mind, Fours usually have some sense of the way the world, and relationships in particular, “should” go and are often disappointed when their more romantic projection of things isn’t realized. In general, Fours have a tendency to invite people into “their world” (beautiful and carefully constructed, of course) rather than moving out to encounter others on their own terms.

Type Fours are highly sensitive and deeply aware of the beauty around them. At their best, they have an uncanny ability to sense and accurately discern the feelings of others, as well as the “sense” of spaces and groups. Fours relish the symbolic, and see layers of meaning in even the most mundane of experiences. Dreams and artistic visions are important to Fours, and they often dress iconoclastically in order to express the beauty and uniqueness they themselves desire to communicate to the world. Fours are able to perceive multiple layers to reality and as a result they often live in a longing for deeper beauty, deeper meaning, deeper experience.

As do Twos and Threes, Fours can struggle with feelings of shame and of inadequacy. Because Fours perceive keenly the beauty and life around them, they tend to experience the present moment as continually disappointing—and often blame this on either themselves for not having the ability to express what is within them or they blame it on others for being unable to match the extraordinary script that the Four has unknowingly written for them. Because they are so attuned to their inner lives, they often express their disappointments as aggression toward themselves. The besetting sin of a Four is envy, a deep desire to have what others seem to possess. Unlike greed, however, this envy is actually an envy of the seeming contentment, uniqueness or beauty of others. In a word, Type Fours are envious of the seeming happiness of others, something that their inherent sensitivity for melancholy seems to prevent them from experiencing. Type Fours are often discontent in the present moment, believing that the key to the happiness they seek is either in the past or the future. 

The glory of the Type Four is their ability to both feel and express the depth of emotion—both positive and negative—around them. A healthy Four has the ability to hold together light and dark, happiness and sadness, the gifts of the present and the desire for more. Type Fours can express symbolically and emotionally the deep currents flowing through all of us, and are often those who call us toward more beauty and life. In healthy places, Fours can express themselves authentically without artifice or drama, and don’t need to experience extreme highs or lows in order to feel alive.

Type Four & Prayer

Type Fours gravitate quite easily to spiritual direction and the examination of the interior life. While unbalanced Fours are so externally oriented that they have difficulty identifying their emotions as their own and not projecting them on others (like an average Type Two), an average Four has the kind of self-awareness that naturally leads to self-reflection. Fours revel in silence and solitude as natural prayers, even if they are more extroverted, and can often be found in roles or volunteer positions that help others identify what’s going on deep inside. Type Fours often seek spiritual direction when their emotional lives become overwhelming and they need support in discerning what emotions are grounded in reality and relationship—the Spirit of God moving in and through them—and what emotions are the result of their false self needing to stir up deeper longing in their quest for perfection. In some Enneagram rubrics, Fours are called Perfectionists, not because they need everything to be neat and tidy, but because they are so dedicated to the Good, the Ultimate Perfect, that they fail to see the “enough” that is before them. Prayer types that are most helpful for Type Fours are:

  • Prayers of Gratitude
  • Prayer of Surrender
  • Jesus Prayer
  • Prayers of Expression (Journaling, Painting, Dance)
  • Prayer of Examen
  • Prayer of the Ordinary
  • The Merton Prayer

Prayers of Gratitude

Type Fours can, in general, have a tendency to focus on the melancholy side of their spirituality—to be acutely aware of how they feel they fall short (or how they believe they fall short in the eyes of others, if they have internalized a particularly stringent religious system), to the brokenness of this world, and to the ways in which they are different or misunderstood by others and even God.

Those experiences are not illegitimate; however, Type Fours tend to find a deeper sense of interior peace and balance (their cardinal virtue) when they practice regular prayers of gratitude. It is important that these prayers aren’t simply reflexive lists of what Type Fours “should” be thankful for—lists of 5 things every day or reminders that there are people starving in other countries so they should be grateful for what they have—this will make a Four even more melancholy and interior.

Instead, Fours benefit from spending some time meditating each day on the joys that they naturally enjoyed. Ice cream, the way butter melts in a pan, the feel of hot water in the shower, the way the blue of a friend’s eyes shone or the warmth of a dog beside them: these moments of simple gratitude that rise from the heart can be pondered and given thanks for. As soon as the list gets abstract (a roof over my head, enough money in the bank), it’s time to put down the exercise in prayer for another day. Sometimes these moments of genuine, heart-felt gratitude stretch for a long time, and others they are over in a few minutes, but this type of attention-giving to what has been beautiful or joy-filled in a day helps the Type Four stay grounded in the gifts of the moment.

Prayers of Surrender

Type Fours can be so attached to the vision of how things would work out most beautifully and well in their imagination that reality simply never measures up. Fours benefit from prayers of surrender as a way of releasing their own version of events to God and embracing what comes before them with whole-hearted trust. The first line of Psalm 23 (indeed, all of the psalm) is helpful for Fours: “The LORD is my shepherd, I will experience nothing as missing.”

This kind of surrender into God’s care and provision helps Fours release and relax into the now, allowing them to experience God’s goodness in and through the moment they are in. This type of prayer can be a meditative repetition of Psalm 23, or a simple prayer of “What is, is enough”, or a detailed surrendering to God of the Four’s plans and expectations. Most Fours will know which is most appropriate at which moment.

The Jesus Prayer

A simple but ancient prayer (Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner), this breath prayer is helpful for Type Fours because of its ease of repetition and the humble heart posture it requires. The most common way to pray this prayer is quietly, meditatively and repetitively over a fixed period of time, noticing how the interior reactions to the words shift within us over time. For Fours in particular, the Jesus Prayer is helpful in its simplicity and focus on Christ and His action in our lives.

Prayers of Expression (Journaling, Painting, Dancing)

As naturally expressive and artistic types, Fours benefit from harnessing this mode of being in their relationship with God. Journalling as a type of prayer helps a Four to be in dialogue with God and with themselves—articulating their emotions and experiences in a more concrete form. This putting things to paper helps get sometimes dreamy Fours out of the abstract and into a place of conscious reflection that gives them a sense of who they are and who God is for them at the moment, which can lead to the kind of definitive transformation that happens when Fours lean into their growing edge and become more like Ones.

Expressive prayer for Fours doesn’t have to be in words. In fact, when Fours feel overwhelmed or disconnected, sometimes the best forms of prayer are both expressive and wordless: painting, taking photographs, dancing or exercising. Those activities are not necessarily prayer in and of themselves, but they can become avenues of connecting with God in prayer when they are undertaken consciously and meditatively. When Fours can let go of the need to make something “beautiful” (Ira Glass’s reminder on the trap of having “good taste” is helpful for a Four here) and simply express themselves in paint, movement or song to God, deep interior freedom and intimacy opens up for them in ways they often don’t expect. When they let their current expressions be enough, the presence of God can be felt in the moment and Fours are moved to awe and praise.

The Prayer of Examen

An ancient prayer form, the Prayer of Examen can be used at the end of the day, end of a week, a month, a season or a year. The Daily Examen is attributed to St. Ignatius and is a kind of review of the day that helps the individual grow in sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in the world. The Daily Examen in its various forms is particularly helpful for Type Fours because it grounds them in the details of their lives and helps them to see specifically where God is moving in their lives. Fours may resist the Examen at first because it feels too structured or imposed (a helpful movement toward an integrated Type One, nonetheless), but after some time of relaxing into the rhythms of the prayers and finding there a deeper intimacy with God, Fours find the Examen particularly rewarding. There are a few different forms of the Examen prayer that I find helpful. You can find them here, here, and here.

Prayer of the Ordinary

Because Type Fours have such a gift for what is beautiful and good, they often feel disappointed with their daily lives, feeling that relationships are not going well, or that their lives are not what they should be. This is why “prayers of the ordinary” can be so helpful for a Type Four. Prayers of the Ordinary (something that is sometimes called practicing the presence of God, after the book by Brother Lawrence) are a type of prayer that focuses on being aware of the gift of the ordinary moment and the presence of God within it. Prayers of the Ordinary notice and acknowledge the beauty and gift of the way soap suds feel when you are doing the dishes, or the weight of wet laundry in your hands reminding you that this practical task is a way of loving and caring for those around you. Prayers of the Ordinary refuse to look for some “transcendent moment” that is elsewhere, on some mountaintop with God, but instead focus on the way that God is present in the dirty carpet or the screaming children or the act of getting groceries. These prayers don’t have to be prayers of gratitude necessarily (although they often lead that direction) but are instead physical and spiritual noticings of the gift of being alive and the constant, caring presence of God with us all.

The Merton Prayer

Thomas Merton is a famous and well-read Type Four. Deeply connected to God and to the interior life, Merton nonetheless struggled to stay present to the immediate in his various settings. This prayer of trust and surrender expresses many of the conflicts and questions natural to a Type Four, and can be very useful for Fours seeking a deeper life of abandonment to God:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. –Thomas Merton

Another Note On Prayer:

Type Fours can be very hard on themselves—harder, in fact, than anything they express consciously or unconsciously out toward others. Therefore it is very important for Type Fours to marinate in the love of God for and with them, no matter how they feel about themselves. Accepting God’s kindness and care, seeing themselves as chosen and delighted in particularly by the Creator of the Universe is a place of prayer and love that Fours benefit from returning to again and again. I know that my spiritual director repeatedly reminds me to “be kind to Tara,” a reminder that all Fours will find helpful. Grounding that kindness in the self-sacrificing love of God helps Fours stay away from being self-absorbed and instead frees them to express their gifts, perceptions and love on behalf of a broken and hurting world.


Type Four Playlist

(developed by Jennifer Brukiewa of Attending Grace Ministries)

Now it’s your turn.
Are you a Four?
What prayer forms have proven most helpful for you?
What ways do you struggle with prayer and your relationship with God?
Share with us in the comments.

Sources: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram and Spiritual Direction: Nine Paths to Spiritual Guidance by James Empereur, The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, and Using the Enneagram in Prayer by Suzanne Zuercher.   enneagrambadage



PS If you haven’t joined us already, please consider signing up for Anam Cara’s newest eCourse, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, which starts on July 7.


Enneagram & Prayer Series Back Next Week

I’ve had a few of you dear ones send a note asking if the Enneagram & Prayer series is going to continue. Thank you so much for checking in. It absolutely will, with Type Four & Prayer being posted next week on Wednesday, and I’ll hopefully be able to get back into more of a rhythm after that. Life circumstances have been full recently, so I appreciate your grace and patience as I embrace the fullness of my humanity (including being six months pregnant!) and my own limitations during this season.

Oh, and if you’d like to dive more into the journey together, to be part of a transformational community during the season of Ordinary Time, please consider joining us for the new Anam Cara eCourse that just opened its doors: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time.



I’m looking forward to experiencing more rhythm together, no matter how syncopated!


The Enneagram & Prayer: Type Two

The Caring, Interpersonal Type:

Generous, Demonstrative, People-Pleasing, and Possessive

Type Two in Brief

Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their Best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

  • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: To feel loved
  • Enneagram Two with a One-Wing: “Servant”
  • Enneagram Two with a Three-Wing: “The Host/Hostess”

Key Motivations: Want to be loved, to express their feelings for others, to be needed and appreciated, to get others to respond to them, to vindicate their claims about themselves.

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), needy Twos suddenly become aggressive and dominating at Eight. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), prideful, self-deceptive Twos become more self-nurturing and emotionally aware, like healthy Fours.

Source: The Enneagram Institute: Type Two

Type Two: The Helper

Unlike Type Ones, Type Twos, known as “The Helper” as a heart-centered Type. Motivated by need to be loved, needing to be valued, and needing to have an outlet to express their positive feelings toward others, Twos are one of the most other-centered of the Enneagram Types. They are genuinely loving and helpful (when healthy), finding energy and life from caring for others and meeting their needs. I like to think of Type Twos as the ones who arrange care for those in distress and are the first to offer to come over to clean the house when you’re feeling overwhelmed. At their best, Type Twos are the ones who see others clearly and find joy in appreciating the unique qualities and gifts of those around them. When they are in a less balanced place, Twos find their worth from how useful or connected they are to others, losing their sense of belovedness for who they are and replacing it with belovedness for what they do.

As a heart-centered Type, Twos often struggles with feelings of shame and worthlessness. They react strongly from their feelings, which leaves them often overwhelmed emotionally by their own needs in the face of the needs of others. Instead of stepping toward that shame, Type Twos tend to deal with that interior conflict by seeking positive affirmation from others—if they are liked and needed, then they are okay. As a result, Type Twos are apt to feel like martyrs, and cling to the idea of “needing to be needed.”

Type Twos have real difficulty connecting with their negative emotions—sadness, loneliness, anger, pain—which they often repress as a form of reverse pride (your needs are more important than my needs). They put others first in order to be needed and valuable, and as a result often feel misunderstood or taken for granted, sometimes scrambling for recognition for all that they are doing for others.

The glory of the Type Two in balance is their ability to be deeply unselfish, humble and altruistic. They see others well and delight in the beauty of those around them. They are compassionate and kind, just the type of people who draw others to them.

Type Twos & Prayer

Type Twos are much more apt to show up for spiritual direction than Type Ones—but most often because they’ve become burned out on helping others from an unbalanced ego place and need help in finding their truest self. Type Twos sometimes need guidance in identifying their own interior movements, because they are so deeply attuned to and affected by the feelings of others. In particular, Type Twos need assistance in seeing their needs as legitimate, and moving away from their predominant image of God as a rescuer. The kinds of prayer that are most beneficial for a Type Two are:

  • Physical Prayer
  • Compassionate Prayer
  • Focusing Prayer
  • Soaking Prayer
  • Centering Prayer

Physical Prayer: As an other-centered, emotion-driven Type, Twos can become disconnected from their bodies in unhealthy ways. Alternately, if they aren’t totally disassociated from or antagonistic to their bodies, they sometimes become overly focused on their hands and arms—body parts that are very important to Type Twos because they represent helping and holding. Hands and arms are often the way that Twos express their love into the world. Physical prayers—kneeling, prostrating themselves, even coming forward for Communion—are helpful for Twos because they assist in the integration of their whole selves into their relationship with God and others: heart, mind, soul and strength. Walking prayers (much like the Type Ones) are useful for Twos, but only if they walk alone to keep them from focusing on others. Their challenge is not being hyperfocused on their destination, like Ones, but being focused on those around them. I also suggest that Twos enact their prayers, using gestures and physical movement to embrace the totality of prayer (the best place to start with this is praying the Lord’s Prayer with whatever physical gestures feel most intuitive and right). I’ll often find that Twos on their growing edge gravitate towards meditative physical practices like yoga or massage.

Compassionate Prayer: One of the things I most commonly find myself saying to Type Twos is some version of, “Have compassion on yourself.” This is really difficult for a Type Two, as they sublimate their needs to those of others, especially when it comes to serving others on God’s “behalf.” Compassionate prayer is a practice of receiving God’s care and compassion in a meditative and simple way. The simplest practice of compassionate prayer can be undertaken by placing your hand over your heart and sitting quietly in this position, receiving the care and compassion of Christ for your deepest inner being. I also suggest that Twos meditate on Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Twos can often come up with a list of other people for whom this would be a good prayer before they are able to settle in and receive God’s care and regard specifically for them. Imagistically, I suggest Twos meditate on Jesus’s healing miracles, imagining themselves as those receiving the tender compassion of God.

Focusing Prayer: As Twos struggle with differentiating their own emotions from those of their friends and associative groups, focusing prayer is an important practice for them. Focusing prayer is a led or directed prayer that allows the Holy Spirit to gently highlight or bring forward what is going on in the person praying, often in the form of colors or sensations in the body. This form of prayer is best undertaken by someone who has training in focusing, and is particularly useful because it helps Type Twos to notice their own inner world in a way that is separate from those around them, guided by God. Colors and shapes allow for a different sort of attention to the inner landscape, bypassing ways in which Twos self-sabotage by repressing “negative” emotions like sadness or anger. I find focusing prayer particularly helpful when a Two is stuck relationally or feeling like God is silent.

Soaking Prayer: Soaking prayer—prayer times spent resting in the presence of God without words needing to be spoken or intercessions needing to be made—is very helpful for Type Twos. As givers, Twos sometimes resist receiving, even from God, due to their need to find approval from others in what they give to them. Soaking prayer times, usually accompanied by soft worship music and some form of guided prayer, are times for Twos to simply receive from God, resting in His presence and letting His love wash over them. Soaking prayer times are often done in small groups of people, which can make it difficult for a Two to focus on his or her own experience, but can nonetheless be helpful in breaking down the compulsive need to check on others when God is inviting the Two to simply rest and be with Him.

Centering Prayer: Simple centering prayer, using a single word or phrase, is a very good resource for Type Twos. In general, silence is a difficult practice for a Two at the beginning of the spiritual journey, because so much of their emotions have been pushed under the surface that silence seems to bring them boiling up with undeniable fierceness. This can be very frightening and perplexing for a Two, and so I often suggest starting with a simple centering prayer, rather than stark silence as they move deeper into their walk with Jesus. Something like “Be still and know that I AM God” is a helpful short phrase for breathing in and out while resting with God. This phrase, or a prayer like the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), can be an anchor point in the interior storm that may surface for the Two when their emotions and interior state begin to surface in the silence. Rather than trying to push the emotions away, I suggest that Twos simply return to their centering word or phrase, letting the waves wash over and buffet and resting, with Jesus, on a cushion in the back of the boat.

Another Note On Prayer:

Twos often find their worth in service, and sometimes even in service in prayer. While intercessory prayer is a good and important part of our lives with God, I find that for a time Type Twos sometimes need to give up intercessory prayer, trusting in God to meet the needs, spoken or unspoken, of those they love. I also sometimes suggest something that I call “The Discipline of Saying No” for Type Twos. In a way, this discipline is a form of fasting from performance, and I suggest that Type Twos say “no” to every request for help or support for a period of time, in order to bring greater awareness and attention to how they strive for love by performing or sacrificing themselves for others. This can be a very fruitful fast for a Two, but one that takes a lot of support and encouragement to engage in.


Type Two Playlist

(developed by Jennifer Brukiewa of Attending Grace Ministries)



Now it’s your turn.
Are you a Two?
What prayer forms have proven most helpful for you?
What ways do you struggle with prayer and your relationship with God?
Share with us in the comments.


Sources: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram and Spiritual Direction: Nine Paths to Spiritual Guidance by James Empereur, The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, and Using the Enneagram in Prayer by Suzanne Zuercher.



The Enneagram & Prayer: Type One

Type One: The Rational, Idealistic Type:
Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic
Type One in Brief

Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

  • Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/evil, defective
  • Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced
  • Enneagram One with a Nine-Wing: “The Idealist”
  • Enneagram One with a Two-Wing: “The Advocate”

Key Motivations: Want to be right, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), methodical Ones suddenly become moody and irrational at Four. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), angry, critical Ones become more spontaneous and joyful, like healthy Sevens.

Source: The Enneagram Institute: Type One

Type One: The Reformer


Known as The Reformer, Type Ones might more appropriately be called “Perfectionists,” although it wouldn’t be good to say that to the face of a One. Type Ones tend to be the most “black and white” of the Types, with a deeply ingrained sense of what’s wrong and what’s right. They are self-disciplined, hard-working and refuse to compromise. You’ll often find Ones in politics or places where structural change can produce great good. They are interested in making the world a better place, often by creating rules, regulations or structures in which good can come about. They are deeply responsible, and see themselves as being quite reasonable. (Although all the Type Ones waiting for this post to go live have been getting angrier and angrier throughout the day. According to a One, this post should have gone live at 12:01 am today.)

Type Ones are in the “gut center” triad of the Enneagram. Within the nine Types there are three groupings or centers, which are the predominant centers those Types act out of. Types Eight-Nine-One are in the “gut center”, Types Two-Three-Four are in the “heart center”, and Types Five-Six-Seven are in the “head center” of the Enneagram. Different Enneagram scholars present the centers differently, but for the most part the “gut center” refers to the fact that those in this triad tend to respond most strongly from their instincts and drives. They tend to react bodily to stress or conflict, raising their voice or needing to find some physical expression of what’s going on inside of them. The key emotion of this triad is anger or rage, which gets expressed differently for each type. Ones in particular spend most of their time repressing or avoiding their anger/rage, to the point that most immature Ones will not identify themselves as struggling with anger.

Ones are expert at controlling their responses, especially since they have such high standards for themselves and others. Often people tend to experience Ones as highly critical or having a standard that is difficult to live with, without realizing that Ones are simply projecting the pressure and standards they have for themselves outward. Criticism from a One is different from the other Types, in that Ones are usually articulating some disappointment they have with themselves and projecting it on the world around them.

At their best, Ones become wise and calm leaders, accepting the circumstances of the moment while inspiring hope for a better tomorrow. Well-balanced Ones are ethical and fair people who become exception teachers and witnesses to truth.

Type Ones & Prayer

I’ll be honest and say I don’t see a lot of Type Ones in spiritual direction. In general, their principles are so high for themselves that seeking support or guidance in an area as intimate as their lives with God is deeply vulnerable. It is most often a One in crisis that tends to find his or her way to spiritual direction (or counseling), as they are beginning to move from their places of black and white conformity to a culture or group’s set of principles into the more complicated and frightening territory of their own souls.

Ones can be so focused on attaining perfection spiritually that they search for any possible measuring stick to evaluate their spiritual lives. They may jump from teacher to teacher, resource to resource, in order to find a satisfying rubric for their own progress.

Ones take themselves very seriously, and need to be helped to release their quest for perfection and laugh.

The forms of prayer and spiritual practice that I’ve found most helpful for Type Ones are:

  • Contemplative Prayer
  • Silence
  • Prayer through play
  • Wandering Prayer
  • Nature

Contemplative Prayer:

Unlike inductive study, disciplines like fasting or intercessory prayer, contemplative prayer is not focused on a goal or outcome. Contemplative prayer is the quite focus of the mind, heart and soul on an aspect of the nature or character of God. Its focus is on union with God, rather than on a cognitive understanding of a truth about God. Contemplative prayer is experiential and often repetitive. As such, it can be quite hard for Ones to undertake, because it seems to be “going nowhere” at first, or worse, going in circles. One of the most famous contemplative prayers is the Jesus Prayer (“Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) and can be quite helpful for Ones as a place to breathe in and out God’s love and attention while acknowledging their own imperfections. Indeed, the acknowledgement of imperfection isn’t hard for a One (they see it all the time, and it angers them), but the acceptance of and resting in that imperfection is difficult. Mature Ones are able to rest in the love of God without needing to change the imperfections they are aware of.


Like contemplative prayer, silence is a discipline of prayer that helps Ones to rest in the current moment without running ahead to how things could, should or need to be changed in order to be “right” or “better.” Long periods of silence help Ones to rest with God, to be in relationship with Christ, without seeing themselves or others as a fix-it project. Ones need to be careful with silent prayer, though, as they can begin to undertake it as a kind of competition or way of proving themselves holy and good. Over time, Ones need to become aware of the types of attention that they are giving themselves and others (critical or loving? judgemental or accepting?), and silence helps them begin to become aware of the trajectory of their own acts of attending.

Prayer Through Play:

Ones have a hard time taking themselves and their relationship with God lightly, so prayer through play is a very helpful type of prayer for this Type. This can involve games (or even the question I like to ask God once in a while, “What game would you like to play with me?”) or tactile play. Ones have to be careful of getting involved in competitive play, or beginning play only for it to become task-oriented (I need to learn to play this PERFECTLY!). The nature of play is that error, improv and failure are expected and part of the activity. Play improvises on what is, rather than looking at what is missing. This can be playful story-telling, playing with playdough or even learning about improv principles that help a One to relax and take themselves less seriously. (My good friend and fellow spiritual direction, Monica Romig-Green, has developed a workshop called Pray Thru Play that is an excellent resource for Ones.) Ones can even learn humor as a type of spiritual discipline to help themselves let go of their Inner Critic and rest lightly in the goodness and provision of God.

Wandering Prayer:

The Irish have a tradition of wandering or pilgrimage I find can be adapted well for a form of physical prayer for Type Ones. In ancient Ireland, monks were sent on pilgrimage without fixed destination—they were understood to be following the call of the Wild Goose, the Irish name for the Holy Spirit, out into the world. Destination was unnecessary, relationship with God was primary. The discipline of wandering prayer is similar, in that the person in prayer sets out on a mini-pilgrimage, or a prayer walk, with God. The focus of the time is relationship with God, not destination. I suggest that each time the prayer walker finds him or herself focused on “getting somewhere”, whether it be the bench at the park or the rock at the end of the path, that they turn and go in a different direction. This frustration of destination keeps the focus on God setting the agenda, rather than the prayer walker. If Type Ones can remain open and curious in this type of prayer walk, they can encounter some beautiful divine appointments, where God arranges things in His love rather than the One having to have everything figured out.


Type Ones are often most soothed by time out in nature. In the natural world, imperfections become part of the beauty of God’s creation, rather than something to be corrected. It’s rare to meet a One who isn’t involved in nature in some way (gardening, hiking, etc.) because the imperfect perfection of nature is calming and connecting for a One. Combined with silence, time in nature can connect a One with God and her or himself in deep, nurturing ways. If Ones aren’t careful, they can become self-isolated in nature, so something like a silent walk in a natural setting with a beloved friend can be very helpful for Ones.

Another Note On Prayer:

Forgiveness is an essential part of spiritual growth for Type Ones, as they often hold such a high standard that forgiving people can become difficult. They often place barriers to restoration of relationship, rather than giving forgiveness freely, as Christ does. They struggle with the idea of unconditional love, and tend to hold grudges. Growing in forgiveness is an important part of a life of wholeness in Christ for Type Ones.


Type One Playlist

(developed by Jennifer Brukiewa of Attending Grace Ministries)



Now it’s your turn.
Are you a One?
What prayer forms have proven most helpful for you? What ways do you struggle with prayer and your relationship with God? Share with me in the comments.


Sources: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram and Spiritual Direction: Nine Paths to Spiritual Guidance by James Empereur, The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, and Using the Enneagram in Prayer by Suzanne Zuercher.


Announcing The Enneagram & Prayer Series

Welcome to a blog series that I’ve been excited about for some time now, a series that explores the connections and interweavings of the Enneagram with various prayer styles and personalities. Although I’ve been interested in and have been using the Enneagram as a tool in my spiritual direction practice for some time, it was Leigh Kramer‘s insightful posts on the Enneagram and Blogging that got me thinking about how helpful it might be to explore together how and why the Enneagram impacts our spiritual lives, and specifically our life of prayer. (Leigh is also an Enneagram consultant, and would be happy to help you discover your type, if you’re so inclined.)

I’ve been studying about and using the Enneagram as a help for spiritual growth for nearly 5 years now. I was first introduced to it in my spiritual direction practicum by a classmate whose research project centered around the Types and how they might affect our lives with God. At the time, it didn’t connect with me—it was just a series of numbers and personality types in a sea of personality quizzes and type-indicators. I was doing so much self-examination in seminary that yet another lens to look at my life put me on overload. And that can happen, because the Enneagram, like any tool, is only right for certain situations and certain people. Although everything looks like a nail when you’re holding a hammer, and everyone looks like a Type when you’re holding the Enneagram, it doesn’t mean that bashing the can of New England clam chowder is going to be anything but messy.

Which is to say, as I walk through this series, posted on Wednesdays, take what is useful to you, and leave the rest. If the Enneagram isn’t resonating with you in your season of life, feel free to leave it to one side, maybe to return later, maybe not. In the spiritual life, as in the rest of our lives, we have a tendency to begin measuring ourselves by what is popular or being talked about—if you haven’t read Brené Brown by now, you’re just not spiritually mature, says your inner voice—which isn’t the way God works in helping us grow into our truest selves at all. Everything has it’s season, and everyone grows at different rates and in different ways. As St. Therese of Lisieux says,

“I have come to realize, that the radiance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the fragrance of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy…Perfection consists in being what God wants us to be.”

What I’ve come to discover for myself over these past years of working with the Enneagram is that it is a very valuable tool for helping people see themselves, their passions, their blind spots, their strengths rightly. Developed as a synthesis of various ancient and modern traditions in the 1960s by Oscar Ichazo, the Enneagram is a modern rubric that has deep roots in work and teaching of the Desert Fathers and early Christianity. Although there is a lot of mistaken attribution for the Enneagram (some of the symbols are similar to ancient sufi teachings, so the work of the Enneagram often gets confused with Sufism), it is a model that draws heavily on the idea of the seven “deadly” sins. 

Those deadly sins (a term that we tend not to like because it makes us feel shameful) were originally penned by Evagrius Ponticus, an Egyptian monk who lived in the 300s.  “The most prominent feature of his research was a system of categorizing various forms of temptation. He developed a comprehensive list in AD 375 of eight evil thoughts (λογισμοι), or eight terrible temptations, from which all sinful behavior springs. This list was intended to serve a diagnostic purpose: to help readers identify the process of temptation, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the remedies available for overcoming temptation.” (source)


(img source)

Evagrius wrote that the first of the sins or temptations was love of self, followed by gluttony, greed, sloth, sorrow (sometimes called acedia), lust, anger, vainglory and pride. Thus, the seven deadly sins were originally nine, and meant as an understanding of the corruption of core passions within us, the core ways in which we are made to reflect uniquely the beauty and glory of God. These sins are deadly not because they are somehow worse than anything else, but because they corrupt the life flowing within us from God, the very essence of who we are—they are the very things that bring about death (relational, emotional, mental, spiritual and physical) and separation from God.

In the same way, the Enneagram identifies nine Types (which have varying titles, but are most helpfully denoted by numbers so that we don’t get attached to character qualities) whose core passions are held in tension with each of the deadly sins.

The Enneagram & the Deadly Sins (Or Passions)
The Enneagram & the Holy Virtues (or Ideas)

According to the Enneagram, we each have a holy virtue, something that is innate within us to pursue and reflect, and the corruption of that is our core passion, or deadly sin. We all reflect each Type of the Enneagram in some way or another, of course. Just because you’re a Seven doesn’t mean that faith doesn’t matter to you, it just means that wisdom is a core pursuit of your soul. In the same way, just because you’re a Four doesn’t mean you don’t struggle with anger, but it means you don’t struggle with it on the same deep level as a One does.

Another reason that I find the Enneagram so effective is that it describes both your path to growth and your path of degradation (the place where you go when you’re under stress or living in the place of your passion). These paths, along with the wings (the number to your right and left that influences your type) and the instincts (one of three qualities—self-preservation, social and sexual—that move you toward or away from others in particular ways), go a long way to helping us understand both where we are at any give time, and what actions and internal narratives might help us grow more fully into who we are meant to be.

Here’s a brief overview of each of the Types:

Type One – The Reformer
Basic Fear: Of being corrupt or defective
Basic Desire: To be “good” or “right”

Type One & Prayer

Type Two – The Helper
Basic Fear: Of being unwanted or unworthy of love
Basic Desire: To feel loved

Type Two & Prayer

Type Three – The Achiever
Basic Fear: Of being worthless
Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile

Type Three & Prayer

Type Four – The Individualist
Basic Fear: Of having no identity or uniqueness
Basic Desire: To “find themselves” and have personal significance

Type Four & Prayer

Type Five – The Investigator
Basic Fear: Of being useless, helpless or incapable
Basic Desire: To be capable and competent

Type Five & Prayer

Type Six – The Loyalist
Basic Fear: Of being without support or guidance
Basic Desire: To have security and support

Type Seven – The Enthusiast
Basic Fear: Of deprived and in pain
Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content, to have their needs

Type Eight – The Challenger
Basic Fear: Of being harmed or controlled by others
Basic Desire: To protect themselves or to be in control of their own lives and destiny

Type Nine – The Peacemaker
Basic Fear: Of loss and separation
Basic Desire: To have inner stability, “peace of mind”

There’s much more to be said of each of the Types, and I encourage you to read the short descriptions in the links to each of the Types before even beginning to guess your own Type. The Enneagram Institute has a short-form free test here. If you’d like to do the long-form test, normally $10, I administer the test in cooperation with the Institute and can offer the Anam Cara community 20% off. Just email me here, and I’ll send you instructions for paying and receiving the test. That test takes about 40 minutes, thereabouts, and needs your full attention. If you come up tied, you can take the test again within 6 months. Finally, if you’d like a more personal touch, I suggest you get in touch with Leigh, who can walk you through the Enneagram flash cards and talk more about what your Type means for you.

Over the next 9 weeks I’ll be talking not so much about the growth and stresses of each Type (although I’ll overview those), but the prayer practices, postures and spiritual struggles of each Type. I’m looking forward to diving into this journey with you, and learning alongside as we talk about our Types and our relationships with God. I’d love this to be a community series, so feel free to blog about how your Type influences your prayer life, and link back here. I’ll link up with the best posts, and share some insights along the way.

Finally, I’ll also be including a Spotify playlist appropriate to each Type as we go, compiled by a dear friend and fellow spiritual director. Cause who doesn’t want to rock out ot Type specific music?

If you’d like to link up with this series, feel free to grab this button and use it on your site. It will link back to this post where I’ll be compiling the posts for each Type:



HTML: <a href=”″ target=”_blank”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-1466 size-medium” src=”×300.jpg” alt=”enneagrambadage” width=”300″ height=”300″ /></a>

So what about you? What do you think of the Enneagram?

What excites you about this series?

What are you looking for?