Woman, You Are Set Free

Children walking through a labyrinth near the author's home


Recently, I preached from Luke 13 about the woman whose “spirit had crippled her for 18 years.” She was bent over and unable to stand up straight when Jesus calls to her, saying, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

The story unfolds with religious leaders complaining about Jesus healing on the Sabbath. Jesus calls them out for treating their own animals, which they give water to on the sabbath, better than this daughter of Abraham. The story ends this way— “the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing.” There are so many ways to read this story, but what stood out for me was the idea that in order to be set free, we need first to know and then name what we are in bondage to. 

I began to explore that question, rolling it around in my hand like dice. Saying to myself, “you are set free.” I said it over and over. For weeks. I held the story close—the importance of my voice as a woman, the invitation to stand tall, and of course, the promise of freedom. But I still wondered. What did I need to be set free from? What was I in bondage to?

More recently, for our apprenticeship gathering, instead of teaching, or praxis, we were given space for rest and renewal. If it felt right, we were encouraged to take a walk and work through a guided set of questions. Not far from my house is an Episcopal church with a labyrinth. As I headed in that direction, I felt the heaviness of the roles I play—mother, wife, pastor, daughter, friend, spiritual director, and on and on (and on). I couldn’t clear my head enough to focus on the reflection questions in our guide, and I noticed that my body was tensing.

As I slowly made my way around the path of the labyrinth, I rolled my shoulders, adjusted my posture, and stretched my neck as I prayed. As I rounded each corner, I let go of the overwhelm just a little. I felt more and more present and connected—both to self and God. As I neared the center, I realized that the tightness was loosening. I could feel my body relaxing. And then, the story of the bent-over woman in the temple came to me. I could see her; I imagined Jesus calling to her and bending over to meet her eyes. But then I stopped; I could not for the life of me remember what it was he said to her. Why couldn’t I remember? It hadn’t been that long since I turned those words into a mantra.

I continued to walk, and after some time, a wave washed over me, and I recalled Jesus’ words: “woman, you are set free.” And at once, I felt it. The freedom of those words. I laughed out loud! I was surprised and delighted—I felt free. The burden of the roles I play cleared out, even if only for that moment as I heard it again “woman, you are set free.”

When I returned to the group, I shared my experience, and someone pointed out that Jesus called her—called me—woman. Yes, I am a mother, a friend, a pastor—but first, I am a woman, a person. First, I am me.

I don’t have these types of experiences often, and even in writing this, it’s hard to recall the details — did I really laugh out loud? Had my body really tensed and then relaxed so quickly? I suppose the details don’t matter, as much as my response. Will I choose to live as a person who has been set free? 

What am I in bondage to? Everything, I suppose. The groans of creation. My overwhelm and stress. The fear of using my voice, fear of what others might think or say, fear of not using my voice, but mostly the inability to believe I am set free.

So I write the words on a Post-it and stick it to my desk, I type it into a note on my phone, and I think about where I might tattoo the words — all in hopes of not forgetting them so quickly next time. When I go back to fear, when I hunch over in shame, when I tense up and forget who I am, may I remember those gentle words of Jesus — you are set free.


Author photo of Holly Phillips sitting in the labyrinth described in the post.
Photo credit: Whitman Phillips (the author’s son)

Holly Phillips is part of the Anam Cara Apprenticeship and comes to it with a background in church ministry. She feels called to walk alongside others and help them find the sacred in the ordinary. After years of wrestling with her place in the church and overthinking life with God, Holly has found new ways of encountering the Spirit through simply being. She currently serves as Co-Pastor at a small church in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her musician husband, their three kids, and a backyard full of birds. If you’d like to connect with her, you can do so through her Substack here.

A Brief Introduction to the Ignatian Exercises

Ignatius of Loyola wrote the Spiritual Exercises at the time of the Reformation. In a season of significant corruption in the church, Ignatius wanted to share his life-changing encounter with Jesus by praying through scripture with imaginative prayer. This prayer journey was originally designed as a 30-day retreat experience but is now more commonly prayed in daily life over 9 months. These “Ignatian” Exercises became a central spiritual practice for the Jesuits, but in recent years have taken on new life in protestant circles, becoming an interior pilgrimage rivaling the Camino.  


The retreat begins with a number of weeks of preparatory prayers focused on knowing our belovedness and then looks at our brokenness and sin in the light of God’s love. Then the remainder of the journey is praying through the gospel stories of Jesus’ birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection. On this journey, we are invited to see Jesus through the lens of his humanity, as a real person, and Jesus becomes less of an idea but a person that we deeply connect with, who we want to know, love, and serve. 


As we pray the Exercises, we begin each prayer time with the invitation to notice God looking upon us with a gaze of love. We are invited to receive that loving gaze, absorbing as much of that love as we are able. This is so important!


For Ignatius the love of God is central. Everything rests upon it. Ignatius knew it would be destructive to consider our sin if we are not thoroughly grounded in God’s personal, unconditional, relational love for us. We are invited to consider and experience why the Trinity sent Jesus into the world. “For God so loved the world…” As we pray through Jesus’ life and ministry we pray with Jesus seeing people, loving them, having compassion on them, healing, restoring, and freeing them. Why does Jesus do this? Love! How does Jesus do this? Love at the heart of everything!


Then, as we pray through Jesus’ passion, we see the love that motivated him, the love that allowed him to suffer and die for us. And in the resurrection, we experience his joy as he comes alive and goes to speak peace to and restore his friends. We experience Jesus inviting us to join him in this kind of love. Ignatiaus’ final consideration is entitled The Contemplation of Divine Love. In it, we are invited to experience the enormity and many-faceted reality of God’s love, to be overwhelmed by love, and to become “incandescent with gratitude.” Faced with this amount of overwhelming love, we are forever changed, forever invited into a love relationship with the Trinity.


As we pray through the life of Jesus, we pray with our imagination. Ignatius taught that our imagination was a great gift of God, given to us in order to pray in an intimately connected way. Jesus desires to share himself deeply with us, so he invites us to enter into his life in prayer as he inspires our imagination. So we enter the story and let the passage come alive to us. We see, hear, taste, smell, and feel what is happening in the scene.


We are invited to journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, be at his birth, and hold Jesus as a baby. We get to be with the shepherds as the angels come to them, travel with the Magi, and bring our gifts to Jesus. We flee with Jesus and his family into Egypt and experience their time as refugees. When we pray through his public ministry, we are invited to let the story come alive to us, be close to Jesus, and experience him. We want to see him, to know him, to see what moves him, to see what moves in him. We pay close attention to Jesus’ desires, what fills him with joy, the things that disturb him, the freedom and healing he wants to extend to the broken. 


We enter into all these things because, as his friend, we want to care about what he cares about and experience things from his point of view. And we discover that our experience changes us, pulls us in, has helped us fall deeper in love, deeper into friendship with him. But we are not satisfied. It makes us desire so much more, so much more of him.


Because we have become personally connected with Jesus, when we pray his passion we are not neutral observers. No! This is our friend who we know and love who is suffering. We are deeply moved. And then, in the resurrection, we rejoice with him in a personal way. Our friend that we love is alive. He is restored to us. We are filled with joy! 

What will you experience and where will God lead you as you pray with holy imagination?

By Dale Gish www.deeplybeloved.com

Offer Empty

As I considered applying for the Anam Cara Apprenticeship, I asked a friend about her own training in spiritual direction. “It’s about me getting out of the way,” she said. “This is about what God is doing, not me.”

Do you know how difficult it can be to get out of the way? Personally, I keep tripping over my desire to be helpful to my now directee’s. 

This has me thinking about a woman in the Scriptures who was in dire need. Her husband died. Her debts were due. Her sons would soon be sold as slaves. Destitute, this woman cried for help to the prophet Elisha who offered what appeared to be a very strange piece of advice. Learning this woman had nothing of value in her home but a wee bit of olive oil, Elisha said: 

“Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars—and not just a few” (2 Kings 4).

When I read this, I immediately scoffed, “Empty? Seriously? How about instructing this poor woman to go around and ask all her neighbors for full jars!? And while she’s at it, for bread, spare change, and a job or two for her and her boys?” At first glance I found Elisha’s advice overwhelmingly unhelpful (which may have been the point …). 

But the prophet-of-God’s instructions were clear: what you need right now, from your neighbors, your friends, and your community, is an increase of empty. Ask them to offer you empty.


Enter the whole get-out-of-the-way theme my friend was talking about, because if my neighbor came to me in dire need, like this widow did to hers, I would move into action. In full fix-it (I want to be helpful) mode, I might just take over – gathering & giving whatever I could and piling it into her arms as if I knew what was best. It wouldn’t matter if that wasn’t what she asked for or needed.

Oof! I feel the weight of that last sentence. 

What if my friend is asking for the empty? Seeking specifically for it? I realize it’s a hard thing for me to offer. It takes great trust to offer empty.

Offering empty is not the same as offering nothing. The neighbors did not shake their heads, close their doors and turn this widow away. No, they gave, but they gave empty, enlarging the space for an outpouring of grace. For along with those empty jars, I believe they gave hope, they gave belief, they gave holy anticipation and expectation. They were with her in the wonder and the waiting.

If you’re familiar with the widow’s story, you know her small amount of olive oil miraculously stretched to fill each and every one of those borrowed empty jars. It wasn’t until the last jar was filled that the oil stopped flowing. The woman was able to sell the oil, pay off her debts, and live off the rest.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry & share our resources. But sometimes people will come to us in need of empty – in need of an enlarged space into which the Spirit can flow in ways we never could have imagined or orchestrated. Sometimes, what is needed is for us to pull back on fix-it mode and offer our empty – as much of it as we can possibly muster – and to do so with great faith, hope, and love. 

As the apostle Paul says, “In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:5 Message). 

Offer Empty.

Ponder: What is the difference between offering nothing, and offering empty?

Practice: Read this gorgeous poem by Christine Lore Webber about being hollowed out and emptied by God. 

Pray: Ask God to enlarge your empty, making you ready for whatever He’ll do next.

– Jenny Gehman

A Call To Lament

By: Lindsey Rowe

To be quite honest, my life is pretty easy.

If I am hungry, I go to my refrigerator. It is full because it is easy for me to drive my gas-filled car to the store to buy groceries with my debit card that always seems to have sufficient money attached to it. I live in a safe, clean, beautiful neighborhood. I don’t worry as I walk down the street alone. I don’t fear our local law enforcement.

My life is pretty easy.

And yet.

And yet, there is an ache in my heart. A rawness that begs to be heard and to be seen. If my heart was exposed to you in all its glory and beauty, you would find it broken more often than not.

When I dare to wonder why, to ask the Creator of the Universe, I hear a gentle whispered reply, “You were created for this. To feel. To live. To love. To desire.”

I was created in My Father’s image. And so I see the beauty of those who are hurting, and my heart responds. It breaks for them, for the broken glory. It breaks for those who are hurting them. Their glory is broken as well. Let us not forget they, too, were created in the image of the Father.

What do I do with that deep pain, the holy sorrow that seems like it might overwhelm me as it comes in waves? I fear that I might drown in it. I fear more that I might numb myself to it and allow myself to forget.

So, I turn to the prophets, to David. They felt and they lived. They saw glory and they saw pain. They suffered and they connected with God in his infinite beauty. How could their human hearts handle it?

I learn from them and their openness. And I begin to cry out to God myself, the way that they did. I begin to lament.

As the laments flow from my hand, one after another, on to the paper in front of me, I realize what deep worship is happening. As I reveal the anguish, I am connecting with Yeshua in a very deep way. The things that I lament over, He died for. As I write, I am stripping the layers of my heart and am laying myself before Him, bare and vulnerable.

Lament does that. It reveals our deepest fears, our deepest selves to the One who created us, the One who gently waits for us to reveal to Him what He already knows.

What is going on in your heart? What might you need to lament? The helplessness of seeing someone you love in pain? The racial division we are surrounded with? A wound from your past? 

I encourage you – allow yourself to feel it, bring it to your Creator, your loving and kind Father. You may be surprised at how He meets you there.


Here is a short lament I wrote.


You were created for this. To feel. To know. To be loved. To want. To hope. To desire.

It crashes around me, like a tidal wave ready to consume me. I am afraid it will hurt. I am afraid I won’t survive.

You were created for this.

But the pain. The pain is deep and real. Raw.

You were created for this. To feel.

Lord, I am so afraid. This thing is, I think, my deepest fear…

You were created for this. To desire. To live. In this world, you will lose. You will hurt. The pain is real. Allow it to wash over you. Don’t turn from it. Don’t deny it. Feel it. Live it.

You were created for this.

If you would like to try your hand at writing a lament of your own, here is a guide Tara created to help you.

The Wisdom of Pass the Pigs

I was already well into my day—bed made, breakfast prepared, email beaten back—when my fingers hit the small plastic figures in my pocket. I was reaching for a tube of lip balm at the time, mentally somewhere else, preparing for the next event on my schedule. As a mother, it’s not unusual for me to be surprised by the variety of items that end up in my purse or other places for quick storage and easy retrieval. But the pigs gave me pause.

My daughter, who was two at the time, started carrying around the case for these little creatures a few months ago. The animals themselves are just the right size for small hands to manipulate and enjoy, and I often find them wedged into the cracks of her car seat or dropped from drooping palms once she finally, finally falls asleep at night. I’m fairly sure that’s how they ended up in my pants that day, rescued from the nether regions underneath her bed in an attempt to keep the favored toy/object of delight safe. Unlike other items around the house, we don’t have a backup for these tiny porcine figures.

We were gifted with these little guys nearly a decade ago now, sometime during our engagement period, in the surreal and whirlwind time between “yes” and “I will.” We were in pre-marital counseling, a common thing, and were working with our pastor and his wife to dig through and acknowledge before God and our community any major issues that needed to be addressed before we stepped forward to vow our lives to each other before God.

My husband and I, I must confess, are overthinkers. We love things contemplative, we watch challenging movies for entertainment, we like to engage with the issues of the day. We are continually talking to each other about our relationship with God, our experiences with Scripture, our sense of our calling in the world. Ken and Sallie, who were walking us through all the common unexamined issues in a romantic relationship, continually came up against the reality that we’d already prayed and talked about the big, hard things.

Which was why we had one standing piece of homework to work on before each session with them: Have more fun.

† † †

“A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot”

― Augustine of Hippo

I have a confession to make, and it is a big one. It is easier for me to see God in the mundane and repetitive realities of my everyday life—making the bed, taking a shower, cleaning the dishes—than it is for me to experience God in the moments of ordinary play or quotidian delight that may come my way in the midst of my days. Perhaps I’ve read Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God too many times, or maybe I’m such a naturally melancholy personality that I’m more easily drawn to suffering than to festivity. Either way, I’m woefully deficient in something both Richard Foster and Dallas Willard call the discipline of celebration.

In his book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, Foster writes, “The carefree spirit of joyous festivity is absent in contemporary society. Apathy, even melancholy, dominates the times.” To be clear, Foster’s book was originally published nearly 40 year ago. And yet our lack of joy is still pervasive.

“Celebration is central to all the spiritual disciplines,” Foster continues. “Without a joyful spirit of festivity the disciplines becomes dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every discipline should be characterized by a carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving.”

Death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees.

While the phrase cuts me deeply, it is also deeply true. When I live my life—my every day getting up, brushing my teeth, doing the dishes life—with a sense that every thing, which sacred, is also a somber act of devotion, I am living under a heavy burden of expectation and piety. It’s important, revolutionary even, to see our small daily acts of living as acts of worship and communion with God. But when engage in making my bed wearing a spirit of seriousness, or live under the pressure of making prayer a part of my child’s life out of duty instead of desire, I’m taking up the heavy yoke of discipline without delight. And that’s a yoke I was never meant to carry.

† † †

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children.”

Luke 7:33-35, NKJV


Throughout the day I find myself fiddling absent-mindedly with the little pigs in my pocket. The game from which they come is deceptively simple and completely silly. Pass the Pigs is essentially a dice game, except the dice you play with are the pigs. Whatever position they land in determines the points you receive: more common positions like one called “Sider”—where a pig lands on its side—are worth less points, more complex positions like one called “Double Razorback” are worth more. There’s even a reset position (racily named “Makin’ Bacon”) that clears everyone’s points back to zero.

During those months of pre-marital counseling, it was not uncommon for my (now) husband and me to realize in contrition the night before our next appointment that we hadn’t actually done anything fun during the intervening weeks. Our fall back was a movie night, but our friends started inviting us for game nights as a way of helping us with our homework. Still, we gravitated toward strategy games—we seriously own a game called Mystery of the Abbey which is a marvelously weird combination of Clue and a practice of the Divine Hours—instead of pure, pointless playfulness.

Hence the present of Pass the Pigs. Which was more intervention that gift, really.

In the passage above in Luke, Jesus is reminding his followers that the religious people of his day both discounted the ascetics of John (he has a demon!) and the ordinary celebrations of Jesus (he’s a foodie and an alcoholic!) as over the top, unnecessary, uncomfortably commonplace.

But wisdom is justified by all her children, he concludes. In other words, when we seek holiness, we seek wisdom. Wisdom, in turn, may look like locusts and honey for John, and wine at wedding feasts for Jesus. It may look like embracing a daily practice of doing the dishes cheerfully for you, and a daily practice of engaging in play for me. These are wisdom’s children.

† † †

This isn’t a story of victory and celebration, however. Wisdom’s children are still growing in our house.

We started out with good intentions, definitely. After getting our gift of Pass the Pigs, we played it at least three times before it ended up in one of the drawers in our kitchen that collects stray things. We even wrote a thank you card to the giver, full of words about how we would dedicate ourselves to the daily practice of play.

Days rolled into weeks rolled into months rolled into years before my daughter fished the game out from wherever it had ended up. And a few more months rolled by before I found the pigs in my pocket, and spend the rest of the day rolling them around in my palm—both a meditation and a prayer of repentance.

I will tell you, though, that the thing that has surprised me most about the past five years of parenthood has been all the laughter. The gracious hand of God, which gave us the gift of our daughter, also crafted into this child of wisdom a voracious sense of play. From making faces at us across the room to noticing the way the birds gather on our feeder outside to repeated requests to “chase me, Mama!”, the invitation to wonder, to celebrate, to revel in the delightful ordinariness of day to day realities is nearly constant.

The plastic pigs in my pocket are only one of many, many small reminders to practice play each day, to experience God not in the melancholy, the silent or the contemplative, but in the silly, simple, and child-like. In God’s upside down, ordinary extraordinary kingdom, I’m finally learning the formation of celebration from my very own child.

A Fitbit for Prayer

I’m a sucker for measurable results. A few years ago, aware that my day-to-day routine involves a lot of sitting and listening, rather than a lot of walking or standing, I got a Fitbit. If you’re not familiar with this little device, it’s part of the family of souped up pedometers that measure how many steps you’re taking during a given 24-hour period. My fancy Fitbit also measures how many flights of stairs I climb, what my sleep pattern is like, and my heart rate. From all of that, I’m supposed to get at least a preliminary picture of my physical health.

Part of the reason I chose a Fitbit had to do with my competitive nature. According to various health organizations, a healthy adult should be traveling 10,000 steps per day in order to stay in said health. This little black band on my arm vibrates pleasantly when I’ve hit that goal (or any other step-goal I’ve set for myself.) It’s the simplest form of reward for performance.

I went a week without feeling that little buzz. I wondered if I’d gotten a defective monitor. I logged into the online dashboard where my data is stored only to find that during an average day of activity, I was only hitting about 25% of my prescribed goal. Discouraged, I put the Fitbit away for another week before I decided to try again with a slightly more modest goal.

If you haven’t noticed recently, we’re obsessed as a society with measuring ourselves against any measure we can come up with. When I logged into the wifi at Starbuck where I am writing this post, the login page read “Kiwi: Bird or Fruit?” Once I selected an answer (can you guess which?) the page instantly shifted to display the percentage of people who had chosen either. My vote was measured—I was with the majority or minority—on something as silly as my initial impression of a word.

We do the same with “likes” on Facebook, or how the outside of our houses compare to the other ones on the street. We quickly size ourselves up against other people in the office, or the way our neighbors are worshipping during service on Sunday morning. We almost instinctively rate ourselves as better or worse than everything and everyone around us, and our feelings about our value or worth fluctuate accordingly.

I was sitting with a pastor friend of mine when she jokingly referenced a parishioner’s wish that someone would invent a Fitbit for prayer. The context had been a workshop in which the participants were encouraged to spend 30 minutes in prayer each day. Everyone was reacting internally to how much work this would be when the speaker pointed out that the time didn’t have to be consecutive. Just 30 minutes in a 24-hour period. The woman referenced was looking for a way to measure the time she did spend in prayer during those 24 hours. She wanted to make sure she was doing it right.

And that’s what most of us want to know, don’t we? Am I doing it right?

I strapped a Fitbit on my arm because most of me knew that I wasn’t getting the kind of exercise that my body needs to stay healthy, especially given my heart history. It’s ironic that I was discouraged when it showed exactly what a part of me already knew. I wanted the Fitbit to tell me I was doing it “right,” when the Fitbit isn’t designed to do that. It’s only designed to tell me what is.

That’s why measuring our spiritual lives on some kind of scale is both discouraging and dangerous. We’re already living in an atmosphere clogged with do-it-right-to-be-loved. Instead of relying on a relationship with Jesus, and God’s own voice to tell us who we are and what our worth is, we’d rather find some sort of spiritual device to buzz pleasantly when we’ve done the appropriate amount of spiritual disciplines. If it threw in a few badges “Contemplative Cruiser!”, “Intercessory Intermediate”, “Wonder Worshipper” that would be great, too.

Prayer, like the rest of our spiritual lives, can’t be measured by how many minutes we read our Bibles or what kind of attention we’re paying during the sermon or how often we serve the underprivileged in our city. All of those things are good things, but checking those boxes don’t automatically result in relationship with God, or even spiritual warm fuzzies.

It’s why “How are you doing?” is the wrong question to ask when it comes to our spiritual lives. How are you doing? implies that there’s a bar labeled “mature Christian” against which we’re all being measured. And before we start waving the Jesus flag, let’s remember that Jesus isn’t a bar against which we’re measured, He’s a savior who makes measurement irrelevant.A Fitbit for Prayer

But wait… I hear you saying. How do I know if I’m following this Jesus if I don’t have some boxes to check, a spiritual heart rate to measure?

I get it, I really do. Right now my Fitbit is charging beside my computer. I’ve lowered my daily goal, which I’ve hit regularly over the past few weeks, and I love seeing the steps cumulate to a total well beyond what I used to be doing on a daily basis. But I’m not going to let my penchant for comparison tempt me into giving you a new measuring stick with which to beat (or congratulate, but I see this a lot less) yourself.

The only person who can tell you if you’re following Jesus is Jesus. And the more you seek to hear God, to be with God, to enjoy God, the more you’ll be freed from the need to figure out how you’re doing.

So, instead of a set of standards, how about I give you a few questions that might be helpful as you consider this Jesus, this God, who loves you so wildly you’ll never plumb the depths of that love? I’m tentative about this, you see, as I’m very aware of my own ability to turn absolutely everything into some kind of competition.

First, spend some time (or maybe all of the time) thinking about, marinating in, and enjoying what comes of asking, How can God be this good?

It’s a question given to me by Bill Hull by way of Dallas Willard, and one I deeply appreciate. It’s a question beyond which I’d rather not go, frankly. It centers me, returns me to what’s truest in my life with God—in my whole life—and reminds me that the God I love is better than I usually give God credit for.

The second question is a little harder, a little more prone to diverting us back into the “how am I doing” paradigm. Before I ask it, though, I’d like you to picture the people who you care most about. Really think about it. Imagine the faces of your loved ones, their struggles, their joys. Think about the last conversation you had with each of them, and the way their faces light up with they smile.

Have that picture clear in your head? Good.

The next question is How am I loving the people already around me? 

It’s really important to notice that the question isn’t “how am I doing loving the people around me?” That would lead us straight back to evaluation, and our Fitbit friend would be asking for a Fitbit for Love. Which strikes you as silly, doesn’t it? A Fitbit for Love reduces caring for others into a set of behaviors that might be considered “loving.”

Go back to the images you had in your head of those you love. Remember their smiles, the way they laugh when they are surprised?

How are you loving those people? Not yesterday, not last week, not over the past 15 years of your marriage. How are you loving those people right now?

It’s a question inviting relationship, just as the first question did. It’s a question inviting you to take the love you received from Jesus, that you continually receive from Jesus, and spill it into the lives of those right around you. It will have your own style, your own knowing of yourself and those around you, but it will look like love, and it won’t look like obligation.

There’s just no badge for that. Love is its own reward.

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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.


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.



God Our Mother – The Liturgists

If you’re looking for a beautiful and unusual gift for Mother’s Day, or you’re in a place where the masculine gendered language around God is either difficult for you or in need of expanding, The Liturgists have just come out with a new album called “God Our Mother“. It’s beautiful (both in artwork and in sound), and includes a spoken word meditation by Shauna Niequist, an explanation of apophatic prayer, as well as some musical pieces for meditation. Check it out.


(Oh, and if you’re looking for the first installment of the Enneagram & Prayer series, Type One will be published later today. Keep checking back!)