If your life is anything like mine, sometimes it seems to be moving at too fast of a pace. There is a great need to breathe and reflect and recapture some moments of peace and a tangible awareness that Emmanuel, God with us, is indeed just that! When life becomes hectic and frantic, there is a great need for an intentional slowing down in order to connect with God more regularly. Even on days when we are more restful and less engaged with activity, it is important to fix our gaze upon God’s face and seek His company.
A rhythm of prayer that helps me to more fully engage the presence of God in every day life is best known as the Prayer of Examen. Although it can be done twice a day, most people find that engaging in this practice before bed is very effective. Examen involves setting aside 10-15 minutes and taking prayerful notice of your entire day. For this to become a holy prayer habit that is sustainable, choose approximately the same time each day and find a place where you can be undisturbed and undistracted. Also, feel free to make this prayer your own in a way that fits your own personality and reflects your own unique relationship with God.
There are basically three simple steps that make up the prayer of Examen:
1. Preparation – take time to still and quiet your soul: “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me” (Psalm 131:2). Focus your attention completely upon God in this moment: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
2. Begin to review your entire day. Give thanks to God for all that He brings to your mind. Ask God to show you two things: “When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
• Notice when you lived out of love and freedom in Jesus Christ: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence or if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things “ (Philippians 4:8).
• Notice when you did not live out of love and freedom in Jesus: “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). Spend some time dealing with those things God brings to mind in repentance.
3. Give thanks to God for the opportunity to review the day, and to notice when you did or didn’t live like Jesus. Ask God for guidance and grace for tomorrow: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
I suggest keeping a journal and discerning with a mentor or trusted friend what God downloads to your spirit during these short seasons of prayer. As this practice becomes a habit for you, allow yourself the freedom to welcome with gratitude the changes that the Holy Spirit births in you. Stick this out for several days and you will see how the practice grows on you and gives surprising depth to the hours of your days. The Prayer of Examen will likely become a practice you will delight in coming back to over and over again as you pay attention to the movement and presence of God throughout your everyday life.