Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Spirituality: Christian Prayer

Christian prayer traditionally emphasizes four orthodox tendencies.  An individual runs the risk of falling into disordered or heterodox prayer, and consequently spirituality, when they over-emphasize or suppress a particular spiritual principle or teaching.

At different times in Church history, one or another tendency has been emphasized- usually to combat heterodox views of spirituality and theology.  Interestingly, there is a significant correlation between personality and the tendency of spirituality.

Four Traditional Tendencies:

  1. Speculative:  The emphasis is on the ordered progression of thought from cause to effect.  While the focus is on the intellect, it moves from observable facts to first principles. The intellect informs the will so it may not only love but love deeply.  This has been instrumental in priestly formation for the past 400 years i.e., Dominican or Thomistic spirituality.
  2. Affective or Emotive:  This Affective or Emotive form directs prayer with emphasis on acts of the will and experience i.e., Franciscan.
  3. Apophatic: This emphasis is going beyond thought and images, by way of the “via negative” and/or the application of Scripture to one’s life (Key Word: Transposition).  Thus, instead of understanding who God is in relation to who we are (anthrotypology), it focuses on who God is not (We may be wise but God is not wise, He is Wisdom) i.e., Carmelite and Augustinian traditions.
  4. Kataphatic: The emphasis is using images through the sensible imagination (Key Word: Projection).  This is the most popular among the laity and statistically for the general population i.e., Ignatian prayer.

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