Prayer of Examen

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As the pandemic rages across the world, it’s easy to give in to fear and hurt. It’s easy to turn to other things that will take our minds away from the pain of the moment and offer a reprieve.

Whether that’s food, alcohol, sex, pornography, binge watching Netflix or some other streaming service, it’s all leading us away from God.

Instead, how much are you talking with God?

My wife and I have been married for more than 10 years now, and we’ve learned that it’s important to connect with each other on a regular basis. We try to do this nightly, before we get busy doing other things, to talk about our days and all things going on in our lives apart from each other. Communication is one of the more important tools in a healthy relationship, and without it, she and I would just be like roommates sharing an apartment together.

God is often like an ever-present roommate–close, but somehow far away. Knowing this, disciples of Jesus designed something called the prayer of Examen, sometimes called the examination of consciousness.

Let me teach you the practice.

“Spirit of Jesus open my heart and mind to what you have to say to me through this time of prayer, and reflection.”

Go to a quiet distraction free environment. Go ahead and relax.

Take a few deep breaths.

Slow down.

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and imagination for this practice. Something along the lines of “Spirit of Jesus open my heart and mind to what you have to say to me through this time of prayer, and reflection.”

Now, replay the day in your mind. Scan the archives of your mind and examine the last 24 hours or so of your life. Go through the major blocks of that day. Find some moment, however simple of brief, when it seemed as if God was close–the kindness of someone you love, the smile on someone’s face, a beautiful work of art, a memory. Find a moment when God seemed close.

The next step is to name the strongest feelings you had in the last 24 hours. In that mental film reel of the previous day, when were your emotions strongest? Did you lose your temper? Were you filled with affection for someone? Were you sad or afraid? When you recall the strongest moments of emotion, ask yourself, why did I feel that so strongly? Does this strong reaction reveal my faith in God? Or lack of it?

Now, share these moments with Jesus. Be honest with Jesus about what caused this strong response in you and try to name accurately which particular feeling it was that you felt. Ask Jesus whether he ever felt the way that you felt when he lived and moved and had his earthly life among us. If a scripture comes to mind that evidences this, open your Bible and read. Ask yourself if Jesus’s response was like yours or different.

The final step is to thank God for being present to you in this practice, and if necessary, repent of any sin, resolve to live differently in the next 24 hours, and express gratitude and thankfulness for those moments when you found God close.

That’s it. It’s not difficult, you replay the day in your mind. You name the strongest feelings you experienced during that day, you share those moments with Jesus, and then you respond to him, resolving to live differently if need be in the next 24 hours.

 

Try this for the rest of the week. Examine your day and share it with the Lord of the Universe, who cares for you and everything that you are doing. He wants you to make Him a part of your day, and this is a profound and easy way to do that.

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