Praying the Spiritual Examen at First Church: “The Prayer of Examen is used to reflect on the nature of God’s activity in human life,” writes Dr. Joseph Driskill of the Pacific School of Religion in Protestant Spiritual Exercises: Theology, History and Practice. “These prayer forms – found in several faith traditions – were used by the desert fathers and mothers to deepen their relationship with God.” This form modifies John Calvin’s daily prayer of examen, a resource he borrowed from Ignatius of Loyola, and is intended to help us become aware of the ways we serve and avoid God’s grace in our lives. It helps to use this weekly prayer at a regular time each week.
First, become aware of God’s presence or reality. You can do this in a variety of ways – breathing in and out silently, lighting a candle, listening to a treasured song, praying the Lord’s Prayer, making the sign of the Cross, using your prayer beads or even a reading from the Psalms or Scripture – whatever helps you slow down and listen deeply.
Second, you review the week’s experiences and activities with gratitude. Remember what happened during the week and what it might mean for you. Where were you blessed? Where were did you meet challenges? Who was a part of your life in this week? Who did you share meals with? You might need to review your phone or your calendar to see where life took you in the week.
Third, pay attention to what you feel as you remember the week: where do you feel joy? Were there times of anxiety? Sorrow? Grief? Did you take a person or a blessing for granted? What does that feel like to you now as you remember? This is where you are likely to discover missing the mark – what we have traditionally called sin or personal brokenness – and naming it and owning with your feelings is one of the ways you make it real. Don’t be afraid of being honest with yourself.
Fourth, where did you sense being in cooperation with God’s grace this past week: what act of service and love did you share? What in your reading or what music or movie or TV program or conversation opened your heart to the way of compassion? What are you truly grateful for from this past week?
Fifth, were there areas where you felt you resisted God’s presence? Or didn’t listen carefully? Or actively chose to go against the rule of love? Are there actions or thoughts that call you to ask for God’s forgiveness? Are there parts of your life you sense God is calling you to give over to the Lord? To ask for a change of heart? A new awareness? Release from guilt?
Sixth, bring your prayer to a close first with a time of silence. You may want to close your silence with a formal prayer like a Doxology of praise – or the sign of the Cross – or even a hymn of gratitude. As your prayer closes you might be aware of something you can do as a consequence of this time with God – an action or an insight – that calls for follow-up.
For more on the Prayer of Examen, please go to these on-line resources:
- Sacred Ordinary Days @ https://sacredordinarydays.com/pages/weekly-examen
- Pray As You Go @ https://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/the-examen/
- Family Weekly Examen @ http://www.catholicfamilyfaith.com/2015/09/weekly-examen.html