Happy New Year, all! I hope that the start of 2015 has found you well, and (for those of you living in the Northern hemisphere) staying warm this winter. I have to say, the first three weeks of this year bear striking resemblance to the last three of 2014. Is it just me?
Well, friends… If I’m honest, this has not been an easy season. I find myself plugging along in a calling to serve & work half a world away from home, and wonder whether I’m doing much at all. It has lately been a confusing time, often teeth-gratingly frustrating, and sometimes just plain lonely. So I’ve had to make a choice. It is the choice to trust that God has me right where He wants me. That He is still vigorously at work around me. That He, in His perfect timing, is bringing healing to a world desperately in need of it. That if nothing else, He is at least working in me – though my own view of it be ever so dim. During this slumpy season, I’ve sought ways to renew my spirit, ways to meet Him afresh, even in this place.
Enter: The Daily Examen.
Some of you may be familiar with this Jesuit contemplative practice first encouraged by St. Ignatius of Loyola nearly half a century ago. As the past year proved to be a time of much inward reflection for me, it was also a space in which to explore more fully the Christian contemplative movement. This was, in part, how I first heard about the Daily (or “Conscious”) Examen, and was immediately intrigued. It’s a discipline of prayer, beautifully intended to foster an awareness of Jesus’ presence in our daily lives. As we grow in our attentiveness to Him throughout our days, so too do we grow in His love and mercy outpoured in the world.
Contemplation in action, as the Jesuits say.
For the coming months of 2015, I’ve decided to try incorporating a few simple elements from this practice into a daily rhythm of prayer that begins, somewhat unconventionally, at the day’s end. Let me invite you to join me there:
Evening: Watching Jesus
In the waning hours of evening, at our day draws to a close, let’s take a few moments to contemplate Jesus’ gracious, quiet presence in our lives. Rest with your eyes fixed upon Him and His kindness, sensing His love for you as your reflect on the question, “Jesus, where have I encountered You today?”
Morning: Waiting on the Spirit
As we start each day anew, let’s set aside a space for meditation on Scripture. I’m going through the Psalms this year – prayers by God and to God that express the full range of human emotion; I love them because they show us how well He understands and cares about the sorrows and joys in our hearts. Into that space of communion with God through His Word, let us lean more deeply into Him as we pray, “Spirit, fill me with Your strength for the day ahead.”
Midday: Walking with God
In the midst of the day’s relentless deadlines, frustrations, demands and disappointments, let us take several minutes to slow down our pace – perhaps even literally with a brief walk at lunch – to recognize that God also walks alongside us throughout our day. Invite His presence with the words, “God, let me sense You here, beside me.”
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.
I Thessalonians 5:23-24
For more on Ignatian spirituality and the Conscious Examen:
James Martin: Finding God In All Things (interview from On Being with Krista Tippett)
Reflection and Our Active Lives (article by David L. Fleming, SJ)
Examen (updated version of an article by Father George Aschenbrenner)
Mars Hill Church: Prayer of Examen (handout guide, with a shorter version here)