The Prayer of Examen
The Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, March 8, 2020
The Prayer of Examen
- Sit in a comfortable position. Center yourself and become aware of God’s presence. Linger in that mood before the Holy One and sever the moment.
- Look back on your day with gratitude. How was it? Hectic? Calm? Loaded with busyness? Stressful? Tell God about it. What thoughts, feelings, and actions did you have? We ask God to show who we really are. We want to know ourselves as God knows us. We want to be authentic. Thank him for one or two blessings of the day, however small. A store clerk who was kind to you. A driver who allowed you to change a lane. Thank him for what you can remember.
- Again, as you look back and review the events of the day, reflecting on how you handled what came at you, how did you do? Did you snap? Did you respond in a way unbecoming of Christ? Where did that emotion come from? Do you need to ask for professional help? As St. Ignatius was wont to say, “Discover the hole in your fortress wall” and make amends where necessary.
- Ask for grace to deal with such happenings in the future as a person who names the name of Christ. Do not hesitate to apologize to people you might have been a bad witness to. Sometimes it’s one’s spouse, or children, or co-workers, or bosses, or subordinates, or strangers. Your apology goes a long way to speak to them about Christ.
- Look forward to tomorrow and the activities you anticipate. Pray for grace and godly wisdom to enter into every challenge with Christ.
The prayer of examen helps us to face daily life with Jesus. Brother Lawrence (1611-1691) exemplified living every moment in the presence of God. In the monastery he lived in he was assigned to work in the kitchen. He cooked and cleaned and attended to other chores of the kitchen. As he did every littlest thing he developed in himself the sense of God’s presence. He washed dishes with Jesus. He cut tomatoes and onions and vegetables with Jesus. He ran errands with Jesus. He encouraged each believer to deliberately choose to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. The prayer of examen is an excellent tool to train a soul towards living life in the presence of God, and there’s no more satisfying place to be in than in the presence of God.
Sample format for the daily examen:
What am I grateful to God for in the past day?
- The gift of another day?
- Family, friends, co-workers, etc…?
- Something good that happened?
Search me and know my heart O Lord. Teach me to number my days. Shade your light into my heart that I may see myself as you see me.
- From the time I got out of bed, what happenings took place? In the morning, afternoon, late afternoon, till now.
- What troubled me today? Why?
- What made me smile? Why?
- What challenged me?
- What was my response?
In light of my review of the events of the day, what is my response to the God of my life?
What activities are lined up for tomorrow?
How can I face each of them with Jesus?
The Prayer of Examen was invented by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The intention of the prayer is to keep our faith alive, and not to let sin or unbecoming character take root in us and even perhaps begin to define us. The prayer has definite steps, but every individual is encouraged to adapt it to the unique person he/she is. This prayer assisted heroes of the faith to go deep in their relationship with God, but somehow it got lost to the people of God over the years. What we now have is that many people go forever without ever having a deliberate spiritual examen of themselves to assess how they are doing, asking how their moment by moment handling of life compares with their profession of faith in Christ. The prayer of examen is a way to encounter every moment of life in company with Jesus.
King David cried out, “Search me, o God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:1 ESV). David and other divines of old longed for God’s search of their hearts. Human life on planet earth demands constant examination or it wanders off the right path. Left to our own idiosyncrasies, we are likely to flip the boat and our soul. If no other prayer is said, the prayer of examen should be a daily practice for every believer.