FIRST: The Prayer of Examen
As I entered into the world of spiritual formation I was introduced to a number of different ways to pray. One form of prayer that really resonated with me was the Prayer of Examen. This spiritual exercise was developed by St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) to encourage followers to develop a deeper level of spiritual sensitivity and for recognizing and receiving the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Simply put the Prayer of Examen is reviewing your day in Christ’s presence. You look back over a 24-hour period and ask Him to show you those times during the day that you felt God speaking to you and you either resonated or resisted His leading.
When introduced to this form of prayer I was directed to sit comfortably in quietness. I was cautioned not to make this a long, laborious exercise, but an engaging form of worship with the Lord.
I began by acknowledging the Lord’s presence; recognizing who He was, what He has done, and what He continues to do through the work of the Holy Spirit. Getting centered was probably the hardest thing for me to do. Resting in His presence is not an automatic “feeling”.
The next step is to give thanks for what the Lord has done for me, to look over the past day and name what caused me to be thankful.
I was then challenged to look objectively at the events of the day – not to interpret, justify or rationalize, but observe and remember the day by noticing details. When or where during the day did I resist the movement of the Holy Spirit and when did I embrace His leadings? I found it was important to see what led up to this resistance or positive response. What could I do to repeat the godly behavior and eliminate that which was ungodly?
Finally I was asked to respond to my findings: How could I have responded differently in my times of yielding to bad choices or continue to respond in a godly fashion?
I quickly realized there is no healthier place to look at my words, actions, and reactions than in God’s presence.
My first experience with the Prayer of Examen was a positive one. I quickly realized there is no healthier place to look at my words, actions, and reactions than in God’s presence. This exercise has helped me look at my pattern of sin and I am learning to meet the temptation earlier and earlier before it becomes full-blown sin. I still struggle, but nothing like I used to!
When I see the godly victories of the day I acknowledge the delight I feel and ask the Lord to help me do it again!
Now I often find myself practicing the Prayer of Examen when I am lying in bed at night. It is wonderful to fall asleep in His presence.