“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ- to the glory and praise of God.”Philippians 1:9-10
As I lay my head on my pillow at night, with a deep sigh of relief I begin to mentally sift through my day. I begin by asking God to help me see where He was present in my day. What are the things that happened today that I am so grateful for? Beginning with when I woke up and mentally stepping back into my day, I begin to look, as an outsider, into the actions/attitudes/responses of my day.
Welling up with gratefulness, I remember the small moments of laughter with my children that day. I see the faces of friends who came to bring a gift to our daughter after an injury. I reflect on the tiny moments also, the sun that poured through window in which I quickly turned and was embraced by the warm light.
With a little bit of resistance, I then ask the Holy Spirit to walk back through my day again and help me to see where I was not paying attention to His prompting. Beginning with the morning, I remember how slow I was to wake up and possibly quite a bit cranky when my children interrupted my morning coffee time. I see myself teaching one of my children at the table and feel the regret as I remember how I was not as patient or encouraging as I could of been in that moment. God invites me to offer those moments back to Him, to turn back and ask for His help in these areas for the next day.
“The examen makes us aware of moments that at first we might easily pass by as insignificant, moments that ultimately can give direction for our lives.”Dennis Linn
This simple practice is called the Prayer of Examen. Combined with lectio divina, this practice is helping me to become more aware of God’s presence throughout my day. Lectio is bringing the meditative power of the word into my day and the examen is bringing the reflective power of a soul anticipating God’s invitation in my ordinary moments.
Asking myself these questions every night brings to my attention where God is present in my day. This awareness and remembrance helps me to notice what I might otherwise miss due to the busyness of life. I sometimes miss those moments where I feel intense gratitude because life keeps on moving. I also skip right pass those moments where God is inviting me to be a presence of peace for others, but I choose impatience instead.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”Socrates
While I think Socrates is being a bit dramatic here, I agree that the examined life brings a FULLNESS that otherwise gets missed. Taking the time to examen our day takes only a few moments at the end of each day. My practice takes about 5 minutes… or until I fall asleep.
Just like the vines in the above picture, the interweaving of the disciplines into my daily rhythm creates something beautiful out of the ordinary, muddy boots and messy bun moments of life.
Soul Tending Invitation: Prayer of Examen
The Prayer of Examen began around 400 years ago through a Jesuit priest named Ignatius of Loyola. He realized that by reflecting on His day, in prayer, it made him even more aware of God’s presence as He was with him through the day. This prayer also focuses on the feelings that rise up in us as we reflect on our day. We can bring those feelings before God and ask Him to guide us in prayer as we explore the reasons behind those feelings even more.
There are many different ways of practicing the Examen. Some prefer to sit with a journal and write their way through the prompts. Others choose a different time of day, like mid afternoon, to practice the examen. The examen can also be done as a reflection after each season or even at the end of the year/beginning of a new year.
Here is one way to begin this practice.
- Begin by taking a few deep breaths and bringing yourself to this present moment.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you as you mentally revisit your day and show you where God was present.
- Beginning with the start of your day, mentally walk through the events from beginning to end. Pay attention to the emotions that rise up in you as you get to different events. If you notice emotions rising to the surface, offer those to God in prayer. Spend some time reflecting.
- Now pay attention to what you are grateful for from the past 24 hours. What stands out? Thank God for those little and big events that bring you gratitude.
- Are there moments from your day that feel like you were being drawn away from God? Spend some time in prayer, confession and reflection.
- Thank God for being with you today and for the awareness that He has given you of His presence. Ask Him now to be with you again tomorrow and for a greater awareness of His constant presence.