The Practice of Examen

Relationships take tender love and care for them to grow and mature.  If you ignore a relationship with a loved one, never giving them attention, time and your heart then how can you expect that relationship to flourish.  I would expect it to grow cold and die off.  A spiritual relationship has similar qualities.  A spiritual relationship with God has it’s ups and downs like our earthly ones but the difference is that God is always ready and waiting to make that relationship work regardless of our lack of interest or selfishness.

Sometimes I go through life wondering where God is in all of this.  Where is God in the big mess that is our world and where is God in the little mess (and accomplishments) that is my life?  Recently I joined a small group to discover the practice of Examen.  I’m tired of being selfish with my time and heart and want to know God better and myself better.  The practice of Examen is designed to lead the participant into a more intentional and focused exploration of and reflection of your relationship with God.  It is an invitation to sense, feel and experience the intricacies of your relationship with God in daily living.  The goal is to become more aware of moments along the way – here and there, big and small, important and mundane – when you sense the presence of God and how that presence might be calling or leading.  Recalling and remembering these moments of God’s presence are the building blocks of a firm relationship with God.

Daily exploration of God’s presence in my life through the Examen prayer will give me the opportunity to explore how God is present in my life.  The desire to practice Examen, or any spiritual discipline, comes from a desire for deeper communion in life with the God who loves us.  Examen is “The specific searching every day to find where God’s love is active this day, where God’s love is leading today, to discern what within me may be resisting that leading, and to discover the growth to which God is calling me tomorrow so that this deepest desire can be increasingly fulfilled” (Timothy Gallagher, The Examen Prayer).

The following are meant to be a guide to lead one through the Examen.  They are not just steps to be completed like homework.  The Examen is something done with God for mutual revelation.

1.  Beginning – Relax, be calm, be still.

2.  Gratitude – Review and remember with thanksgiving and gratitude the gifts God gave throughout the day, gifts both simple and profound.

3.  Petition – Ask God for insight and guidance that will make this Examen a work of grace.  Ask for understanding to see how God has been working though out the day: God, what do you want to show me about this day?  Ask God to help you see and understand how his love has been working with you today.

4.  Review – Review the day with God and look for stirrings in your heart and mind.  Look for those that were not of God and review choices in response to both.  Where was God in all of this today?  Where there inclinations and thoughts that were not of God?  If so, was I able to discern and resist them?  Was the use of my freedom in accord with God’s loving desire for me today?

5.  Confession and Forgiveness – In response to the review of the day, acknowledge to God and receive God’s forgiveness for the way you were not aware or did not respond to God’s movement or presence in your life.  – We do this, not from a place of judgment but so that we can have the deep experience of knowing that we are loved and held by God even in our brokenness.

6.  Renewal – Look ahead and with God, plan how to live in accord with God’s loving desire for your life.

7.  Endings – Aware of God’s love and presence, bring your Examen to an end.

Personally, I expect this practice of Examen to have ups and downs and take work on my part.  That’s the thing with relationships, they take work.  Hopefully I’ll check back in here time to time to reveal how this practice is progressing and hopefully keep myself accountable.

(Special thanks to Associate Minister, Gary Hardwick at First Christian Church of Norman for leading this small group and for providing the description, explanation and guidance on how to practice the Examen)

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