I pray. I love to pray, actually. My very favorite place is in the car. I just go for it. I talk out loud and converse with the God of the Universe about anything and everything, Let me tell ya, before bluetooth I probably looked like a real freak. But, honestly, nowadays everyone talks to themselves in the car. So I don’t look like a maniac. Just a lady. Who talks to herself. In the car.
Some of us evangelicals are kind of funny about prayer. We don’t want to say written prayers. We don’t want to pray someone else’s prayer. We want to speak from our heart. But, when it’s time, we say that we really don’t know what to say. How to talk to God. What to tell him or ask of him. So, then, sometimes we just don’t.
There is an ancient prayer, or maybe I should say way to pray, that I would love to share with you. It is called the Examen. It comes from a book written by Ignatius of Loyola in 1548.
I think that the Examen is really great because it is reflective and it is to be done at the end of the day. These are two things that many of us really like and need. 1. To reflect on our day. and 2. To pray at night.
So, what do you do? What’s the basic idea of the Examen? The basic idea is to look back on our day and think about all that has happened. Think about the blessings. Think about the things that went well, and the things that didn’t go so well. Praise God for His gifts. Repent for the things that you messed up on. Maybe we need to ask for forgiveness and grace. Maybe we need to ask for healing. And then, we look to the day ahead and pray about how we can do better.
Here’s the break down:
I like to begin by thanking God for all that he has given you today. I thank him for the big things and the little things. Maybe I got to witness a real miracle, or I was forgiven, or he blessed me with good health. I thank him for my family, or my job. Or sometimes I’m thankful for the little things like hot coffee on a cold day. Or a good pair of shoes. Or a nice visit with good friends.
Ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance:
As you go deeper into your reflection, ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Otherwise, you may not dig as deep as you should or you may just kind of hide out in your own self-denial. When I ask the Spirit to help me do a little soul searching it is much harder to stay in the easy, comfortable places as I feel him poking and prodding me to grow and listen to the Father.
Recognize your failures:
This is the time to see where you have fallen short during the day. I just kind of mentally go over my day. Sometimes I realize that I was too harsh with someone. Or maybe I was a little lazy or deceitful in my behaviors. I think over my day asking the Lord to show me places where I failed, in big ways or small.
Ask for forgiveness and healing:
If I have sinned (and who goes a day without sinning?), this is the time to ask the Lord for forgiveness. If I have harmed someone unintentionally I will pray for healing for that situation. Sometimes it isn’t an outright sin, but a mistake. This brings harm to others nonetheless. It is a time to pray for forgiveness and also the ability to move forward. Sometimes it’s helpful to ask the Lord how we can do better or have better discernment if those situations arise again in the future. (and many do)
Pray about the coming day:
You have prayed about today, after having reflected on all that has happened. Now, pray about tomorrow. Where will you be? Who will you see? Will you encounter hard situations or stress? Moments of difficulty? Ask the Lord to be with you and to give you discernment to make the best decisions as you face your day.
That’s it. A few hundred years ago Jesuits, with Ignatius of Loyola, started praying in this manner, and you can do it even today. May this ancient rhythm of prayer slow you down and help you commune with the Father in the deepest of ways tonight.