Awareness and the Prayer of Examen
As we begin, let us center ourselves in Christ Jesus. Allow yourself to rest in the present moment to know God’s presence with you. It is good to be still as we pray for the Lord to speak to our hearts.
Awareness and The Prayer of Examen1
Many times, in the process of Spiritual Direction I am asked, by a directee how can we know God’s presence. Often this is accompanied by being frustrated with an inability to be still. This frustration is compounded and especially exacerbated when one feels pressed to be inwardly still or feel like they have failed when trying to practice a contemplative discipline that seeks stillness. As most of you know I am a proponent of intentional contemplative disciplines such as Centering Prayer 2, Lectio Divina 3, Contemplative Prayer (prayer of quiet).4 However, I have heard on many occasions, “If I am told to try one more technique or posture of listening, I think I am going to explode.” What can we do when spiritual disciplines become taxing, onerous, or just plain ineffective? What do we do when we can’t feel God’s presence? Especially, what do we do when we feel that our ability to hear God is non-existent, or worse that God is not speaking to us. When this occurs, I recommend a very organic approach to practicing the presence of God that is more reflective of past moments, rather than receptive in the moment. This may sound strange, but sometimes it is best to stop and reflect on where God has been in our day rather than try to become open to God in the moment. In so doing we may find that such a reflection will ultimately open us to a deeper awareness of God with us in the moment. When reflecting in the Spirit two things inevitably occur. 1) We realize that God is with us even when we were unaware and 2) We become aware of what may be keeping us from realizing God’s presence and God speaking to us in the moment. I have found this practice of reflective attentiveness to be very effective in opening the floodgates of awareness to God in the moment, thus making various intentional contemplative disciplines, which were previously simply not helping, become once again quite effective. The best way of reflective contemplation (seeing God in the day that has just past) I know is The Prayer of Examen.
I discovered this prayer, and began practicing it, as I participated in The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life. This was an eight-month process of weekly meetings, and daily journaling, combined with a deep immersion into the reality of God with us. The anchoring aspect of the entire experience is to practice the Prayer of Examine morning and evening. In this I experienced an enhanced desire and joy in the practice of my regular daily disciplines of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina.
Historically, times when God seems absent has been referred to as desolation. Conversely, when God’s presence is strong is called consolation. In Ignatian terms desolation is the concept of being made aware of life by, what he called the false spirit, while consolation is awareness of life by way of the Holy Spirit. The Prayer of Examen, in a nutshell, is designed to help us become more attuned to these two ways of awareness in our daily lives. Then, fine tuning our awareness to God’s presence (consolation) as we also learn to avoid and/or extricate ourselves from life events, emotions, thoughts and the like by which we lose our sense of God’s presence (desolation), the very moment we become aware of them. The Prayer of Examen is deceptively simple, yet extremely powerful in fine tuning our hearts to hear and to see God, while simultaneously opening our minds to avoid that which gets in the way of our awareness of God with us.
It has been my experience that it takes at least 14 consecutive days of daily examen before we notice any effect on our regular contemplative practices. Thus, it is best way to make the “Prayer of Examen” a regular spiritual discipline, thus predisposing us to an acute awareness of God’s voice on a regular basis. I also highly recommend that this is done with the help of a trusted spiritual director who is familiar with the examen.
We ponder inner peace as we become more and more aware of “The Prince of peace, Jesus Christ, God in our lives.”
Inner stillness is born out of the recognition that we are indeed blessed to be alive. Even when life is sometimes messy, we can still look back and see God in every moment. We can also learn to respond to God’s pull and to reject other pulls in our lives.
The path to “Inner Stillness”, as we practice the Prayer of Examen, begins with reflection on our day, our week, even our entire lives, as we stop, “Be still, and know God”, to eventually know God’s presence in every moment of our lives.
Five Components of the Examen
2. Prayer for guidance
3. Review of the day
5. Grace for renewal
Preparation: Become aware of God’s love being showered upon you: Simply rest silently in God’s love for several minutes. This is a time to simply absorb the joyful reality of God’s presence (even if you cannot yet feel it). Just rest before God, seeking tranquility and inner stillness.
1. Start with gratitude: What are you grateful for this day? (You may want to write out a prayer of gratitude to begin).
2. Prayer for guidance: Dear Lord, please guide me, give to me insight and strength, that by your grace this examen may be fruitful beyond my temporal human capacity (you may add to this prayer as the Lord leads you). This is a good time make a commitment to indifference. “Lord your will not mine”
3. Review the day: Start from the moment you woke up, noticing where you felt God’s presence. Also notice times when you were unaware, may have turned away from, or missed God’s presence this day. Recall and record the moments and as best you can your thoughts at the time.
Recall when God warmed your heart, as well moments and thoughts when you felt you were in God’s will. Also recall and record moments and thoughts when you felt inner disquiet, moments and thoughts when you felt you were outside God’s will.
4. Forgiveness: Ask God for forgiveness and know that you are forgiven. Repent and pray for God’s healing touch. If there is a need for you to apologize to someone ask the Lord for the strength and opportunity to do so.
5. Grace for Renewal: Ask God to help you live in and to extend the Lord’s grace tomorrow and in the days to come. Pray that the Lord will help you to be more open and responsive to the divine presence. Pray that you will see God more clearly in days to come.
Finally, just rest for several minutes in knowing, possibly even an awareness, that God is present with you right now. You may want to write down any final thoughts, especially guiding thoughts or actions that the Lord has placed on your heart. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.
1 The Awakening Institute offers a 3 week, 2 ½ hours per week, experience titled
“Discernment” in which we employ The Prayer of Examine, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and the Clearness
2 The Awakening Institute offers a 3 hour seminar on the practice of Centering Prayer.
3 The Awakening Institute offers a 3 hour seminar on the practice of Lectio Divina.
4 The Awakening Institute offers a 3 hour seminar on the practice of Contemplative Prayer (prayer and quiet)
and Holy Listening.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.theawakeninginstitute.com or call 321-298-8801 for further details on any for the above classes and seminars.
Next week, We Begin a Series of Meditations:
Meditation #1: Simple Awareness
May God Bless You All, Gene Yotka
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