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Food for Thought - Spiritual Formation

Prayer of Examen

To One Whom Jesus Loves,

As you begin to own Godís unconditional love for you, acceptance of you, and delight in you, as well as your identity in Christ, you are ready to make a very helpful and empowering spiritual discipline called the Prayer of Examen a part of your life. This discipline will enable you to be aware of Godís working in you and around you, helping you to be in touch with your own growth, making you aware of your feelings, your struggles, your weaknesses, and your inability to maintain your connection with God. It will also help you to walk in harmony with the leading of the Spirit. Thus, before you seek to make this discipline a part of your life, you must have internalized Godís profound and unshakeable love for you. If you are not at this place, spend time exploring and embracing Godís love for you, for Godís unconditional love is the foundation of all we are and all we do.

However, if you are convinced of Godís love for you, I invite you to explore and experience this spiritual discipline called the Prayer of Examen. The formalized practice of this discipline dates back to the 16th century (Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola), but grows out of the words and intentions recorded in Psalm 139:23-24, where the Psalmist says, ďSearch me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlastingĒ. This flows from one who wants to know what God is up to in and around them. It grows out of a desire to develop spiritually and a willingness to be honest with oneself and God. It grows out of a deep trust in Godís love, wisdom and concerned involvement in oneís life.

The Prayer of Examen is about becoming more aware of God and self. Regularly observing and reviewing the movements and moments of your life accomplish this. The practice of this discipline flows from an internalized awareness of Godís love, as well as a commitment to grow in Christlikeness and to live in Godís presence. The Prayer of Examen involves reviewing your day using a variety of questions. These questions are designed to help you discern Godís presence in the circumstances and people you encounter. In addition, the questions help you to discern your negative and positive responses to Godís Spirit. Here are some helpful questions that will lead you to personal reflection and discovery:

Ü Where is God in this situation?
Ü How is God leading me?
Ü What is God saying to me?
Ü How was God there for me in this experience?
Ü What in my present situation is leading me to love God and love others?
Ü What is leading me toward God?

Ü What is leading me away for God?
Ü What is the underlying spirit in my dealing with others?
Ü When was I aware of God during my day?

Ü When was I not aware of God during my day?

The Prayer of Examen, when used regularly, keeps you from merely floating through your spiritual life, being carried by the currents of the river of your experience and world, unaware of where it is taking you. Through this prayer you become aware of a variety of currents in your life, seeking to intentionally place yourself in the current that is of God and is taking you to God.

Here are the five steps involved in the classic pattern of the Prayer of Examen:

1. Gratitude for Godís grace: reflect on Godís goodness and blessings, the divine gifts you received this day.
2. Prayer for insight: ask God to help you see yourself more clearly, free from defensiveness and blind spots.
3. Self-examination: survey your day/week, paying attention not only to your circumstances, but also to your feelings, thoughts, moods, urgings and interactions with others. Often times it is our feelings (positive/negative) that are the best indicators of what is happening in our lives and where we need to listen for Godís voice.
4. Confession: as you become aware of your own struggles (sins of commission and omission), bring them before God, remembering you are unconditionally loved by God. As you become aware of God working in you and embrace that your victory is guaranteed, you may experience sorrow and wonder.
5. Resolution: This is an important part of this discipline. Here you affirm to God and yourself how you desire to live your life in light of your new realizations of Godís activities and promptings, as well as your own weakness and your sense of Godís leading.

I would caution you not to get rid of the resolution step. Sadly, this is often forgotten or intentionally left out of the Prayer of Examen. As you look at your day, yourself and God, it is important to resolve to use the information you have received from God. Otherwise you are like the person who looks in the mirror and leaves, forgetting what she has seen. You will have lost an opportunity to grow, to change, to become like Christ. Please commit to making a resolution based on what God shows you during the Prayer of Examen.

Below is a list of questions for an abbreviated Prayer of Examen that can help you begin to explore your day. For those new to this practice, this may serve as an excellent way to introduce the Prayer of Examen into your life.

Questions for your day:

1. What today was most life-giving?
2. What today was most life-draining?
1. When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to my true self (whom it is that God made me

to be)? To God?
2. When today did I have the least sense of belonging to my true self (whom it is that God made me to

be)? To God?

ß As you answer the first question, let the feelings bathe over you and allow them to erupt into a prayer of thanksgiving and adoration to God.

ß As you answer the second question, try to name the emotion you are feeling and ask God if there is something for you to notice in this. (Perhaps an area of sin of which God is gently convicting, a wounded place that needs Godís healing touch, a distraction or discouragement that is keeping you from hearing Godís voice, etc.) Respond to these, asking God to give you wisdom and guidance.

The abbreviated Prayer of Examine (outlined above) should take 10 to 20 minutes. I recommend using a journal to record your answers to the two questions. This can be a helpful way to notice patterns and to better understand how God speaks to you in the midst of your life situations.

There is no one correct way to do the Prayer of Examen. The goal of the examen is to get in touch with what God is doing in your life. It is about becoming aware of how you are or are not actively participating in what God is up to, as well as discovering areas in your own life that are life-giving or life-draining, so you can make adjustments. Use the questions above to help stimulate your creativity as you design your own Prayer of Examen

Together on the Journey;
Larry :)

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