B Logo believing being becoming
b fed
Home
Who We Are
Mission
Direction
Retreats
Spiritual Formation Team Building
Resources
Upcoming Events
Food for Thought
My Journey w/ Grief
Our Story
Christian Discernment
Journey with Jesus
Journey with Jesus - Groups
Journey with Jesus Videos
Stations of the Cross
Donations
Contact Us
Links
Food for Thought - Musings

Becoming a Discerning Person: The Prayer of Examen

Last month, in the monthly musing, I shared about a prayer practice called the Prayer of Recollection. That prayer practice helped us to name, own, and embrace who we are in Christ, a critical component when it comes to being salt and light in this world. This month I have chosen to share another prayer practice that I see as the perfect companion for the Prayer of Recollection. This prayer practice is not prayed in the morning but two times throughout the rest of the day – around noon/early afternoon then again in the evening or even right before bed. This prayer practice is designed to help us to:

1) Stay connected to God

2) Be aware of the invitations/challenges of God

3) Become attentive to the ways God speaks to us

4) Be aware of when we say yes/no to the promptings of God throughout our day.


The goal of this prayer practice, which is called the Prayer of Examen, is not self-condemnation
, but a growing self-awareness of our responses to God, a deepening sensitivity to the internal promptings of God’s Spirit and the cultivation of a heart open and yielded to the invitations/challenges of God.


I believe this is a very important prayer practice to make a part of our daily lives
, because over time it helps us to become a discerning person. You see, as we walk with Christ and mature in our faith, Satan begins to seek to entrap us by coming as an angel of light, so ongoing discernment becomes a necessity. The Prayer of Examen over time helps us to learn to discern the subtle movements of the Spirit within us. St. Ignatius of Loyola offers a beautiful image regarding these internal movements by which the Spirit testifies to our spirit regarding what is of God and what is not of God. He writes; When you are proceeding from good to better, you will experience God’s touch as light and gentle, like a drop of water falling on a sponge, but you will experience the evil spirit like a drop of water hitting a stone.” This “light touch”, as is the dissonance of the “water hitting the stone”, can be very subtle and thus difficult to readily discern unless we have trained ourselves to become sensitive to these internal promptings, and that is where the Prayer of Examen comes in.


What follows
are the five steps of the Prayer of Examen. These steps can be a bit overwhelming, so at the conclusion I offer you a starter Prayer of Examen -a way to dip your big toe into this prayer practice without feeling you are drowning. Now this “starter” option is lacking a number of the steps, but I am a strong believer in anything worth doing is worth doing poorly and more often than not, something is better than nothing. So do not get down on yourself if after reading through the following steps you opt for the starter version. God is faithful and will use it in your life.


Prayer of Examen

Listed below are the steps for this prayer practice that captures the essence of Psalm 139:23-24.

1. Give thanks to God for what you have received. This causes you to focus on God and God’s goodness and grace, and on the greatness of God.

2. Ask God to reveal your sins to you. This may seem moralistic and externally driven, but that is not the case. The key to this step is to let God reveal this to you. This is NOT about YOU scouring your life for your sins! It is asking God to show you what is there, and more often than not God will not reveal anything during this step, but will reveal your sin to you in the midst of your sin and in your life throughout the rest of your day. Remember when God does reveal your sins to you it is not about self-condemnation or being separated from God’s love, but it is an invitation to freedom to be and to become more fully who God has created you to be. This step is about communicating to God I want to take my sin seriously, I want to know the hurtful ways that are a part of my life that I may more fully embrace the fullness of my life in Christ.

3. Examine how you lived this day, looking at your thoughts, words, and deeds. This step helps you to discover how you might have missed God today so that tomorrow you will have a better chance of connecting with God and with what God is up to.


Ask God the following:


God, show me when you invited/challenged me by the inner promptings of your Spirit.


When did I say yes to that which you were inviting/challenging me into?

When did I say no or was unaware of that which you were inviting/challenging me into?


God
, give me greater insight into the inner motivations and desires that caused me to say yes to your invitation/challenges, that together we may fan the flames of these desires.


God
, give me greater insight into the inner motivations and desires that caused me to say no or blinded me to your invitations/challenges that I might not continue to be enslaved to them.

4. Ask forgiveness, expressing sorrow for your sins while recalling to mind God’s love and grace. This provides the opportunity to soak in God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy and love.

5. Ask God for the grace to amend your ways and more fully live out of a sense of connection with God. In this step you are once again affirming your need for God and dependence on God. You begin to internalize that it is not up to you and your effort, for “apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).


When the Prayer of Examen is regularly practiced, it generates an internal spiritual sensitivity to the movements and invitations of God, while fostering a greater awareness of God’s love, grace and forgiveness and your dependency on God. This prayer can be done in five to fifteen minutes. The key is being totally open and honest with God and yourself.


Starter Prayer of Examen

This is a simplified version of the above prayer practice. Although simplified it is still a powerful tool for transformation into Christlikeness.


Step 1: Ask God to give you needed insight, guiding you as you ponder the following questions:


Step 2: Ask God the following:


God, show me when you invited/challenged me by the inner promptings of your Spirit.


When did I say yes to that which you were inviting/challenging me into?

When did I say no or was unaware of that which you were inviting/challenging me into?


God
, give me greater insight into the inner motivations and desires that caused me to say yes to your invitation/challenges, that together we may fan the flames of these desires.


God
, give me greater insight into the inner motivations and desires that caused me to say no or blinded me to your invitations/challenges, that I might not continue to be enslaved to them.


As stated above the ongoing practice of the Prayer of Examen, either version, will help you to become a discerning person, sensitive to the subtle invitations/challenges of the Spirit (the light and gentle touch of a drop of water hitting a sponge) as well as when an inner prompting may not be from God (the dissonance of a drop of water hitting a stone).


Final Word about Prayer of Examen

This practice is designed to be done twice day. Many people find the afternoon one the hardest to do consistently. I believe this is not because of a lack of desire but a forgetfulness as well as getting swept along during ones day - the setting of an alarm on your phone
or watch to remind you to do the prayer of Examen can be most helpful. I do hope you will give this prayer practice a go – it is so important that we learn to become discerning people.



This is a ministry of b. b is a nonprofit ministry that exists to assist pastors, church staffs, seminarians, professors and missionaries who hunger and thirst for growth in intimacy with God by offering contemplative retreats, spiritual direction, staff development and spiritual formation opportunities.


If you are not already receiving the monthly musing automatically and would like to, please visit
www.b-ing.org click on ‘Food for Thought,’ and complete the form at the bottom of that page.


Back to Food for Thought
If you would like e-mail notifications of the latest happenings at b, please fill out the following form:
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
I would like e-mail notifications on: b Newsletter
Monthly Musings
Spiritual Formation Letter
Upcoming Events/Retreats