The Prayer of Examen is primarily an exercise in remembering. One is invited, through four portions (presence, gratitude, review, response), to concentrate on experiences and encounters from the past 24 hours. The beauty of the practice is its simplicity; it is more a guide than a prescription. If some portion feels especially important on a given day, feel the freedom to spend all or most of your time in that portion. The purpose is to increase awareness and sensitivity, not to finish or accomplish a task.
For this practice:
* A comfortable and relatively quiet location is likely most conducive for reflecting
* The experience doesnâ€™t need to be a certain length â€“ as little as ten minutes could be sufficient, and you could spend more time on certain portions compared to others
* It might be helpful to journal your thoughts and recollections or to write out what you notice during your times of prayer
* Consider sharing your experiences: allow encouragement and insight from others to influence you and cheer you on, and when appropriate give the same, striving to be an ever-faithful ‘community of solitudes.’
Begin this practice by recognizing the presence of God. Remind yourself of God’s presence with you and his desire to be with you. Consider praying for the Holy Spirit to help you be attentive to God’s presence. To become more focused, it might be helpful to repeat a simple phrase during this time, like “Be still and know that I am God.”
Itâ€™s important to begin this practice in a calm and centered state. There may be days when you’ll need the entire time to remember and focus on the nearness of God. Don’t rush past this portion. Take the necessary time to wait and find comfort in God’s presence.
“If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank You,'” wrote Meister Eckhart, â€œthat would suffice.” As you think about the past 24 hours, what causes you to be thankful? Look back over the past day, the big and small aspects of life, and recognize what reasons you have to be grateful. Focus on these experiences and encounters, helping your mind and spirit center on the goodness and generosity of God.
There is a chance to capture thanks as a community during this practice, a page to add words of gratitude and give testimony to Godâ€™s generosity and faithfulness. You might have something to contribute that will encourage someone else, or you might need to read the words of others to find encouragement and reminders of Godâ€™s goodness. This is one small way we can encourage each other to be a thankful people.
Over-packed lives can rob us of the opportunity to learn from the past, to see how yesterday might inform today. “Where did the time go?!” we ask ourselves, often struggling to remember what we did just a week ago. Here we can benefit again from taking time to look back over the past 24 hours. By intentionally reviewing our interactions, responses, feelings and intentions, we can avoid letting days speed by. We can pause to learn more about ourselves and about God’s activity in our lives.
Try to look back objectively as you review. Rather than interpreting, justifying, or rationalizing, the intent is to observe and remember. Allow your mind to wander the situations you’ve been in and to notice details. The questions in this exercise should help you bring specific experiences to mind.
Having spent time remembering, it seems natural to want to respond in some way. Take time to journal or pray, expressing your thoughts on the actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions youâ€™ve remembered as a part of this exercise. You might need to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude or resolve to make changes and move forward. Allow your observations to guide your responses.
One of the core practices I would include in a community rule or covenant is listening / discernment.
Esther de Waal reminds us that â€œwe are essentially rhythmic creatures and [our lives] need â€¦rhythm and balance if [they are not to be drained of] the precious possibility of being or becoming our whole selves.â€ â€œUnless we take this [need] seriouslyâ€ she says, â€œwe are going to reduce the amount of ourselves that is actually there and available to usâ€ (from Seeking God, p. 93).Part II
The Examen, above all other practices of discernment, enables us to acquire the important habit of reflecting on our lives; reflecting on our contexts in the company of God and learning how to read the maps of self and place. This is to grow in discernment â€“ to grow in our ability to see and experience God in our consciousness and unconsciousness. It is to grow in our ability to recognise and hear the â€œstill small voiceâ€ (1 Kings 19:12). Finally we could say, with Ignatius, that doing the Examen is a response of love and a willingness â€œto strive to move my heart toward what [is] pleasing to God.â€ from Prodigal Kiwis