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Prayer of Examen

Adapted from "Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home" by Richard Foster

"My heart has heard you say, Come and talk with me. And my heart responds, "Lord, I am coming." (Psalm 27:8)

St. John Vianney describes prayer: "Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself." The Prayer of Examen is a conscious decision to position our hearts and minds in a state where we can hear from God as to the true condition of our hearts. Psalm 139:23 calls out to God to reveal this to us, "Search me, O God, and know my heart." There are two basic aspects to this prayer discipline, like the two sides of a door. The first is the "examen of consciousness through which we discover how God has been present to us throughout the day." It is through this that we explore how we have responded to his presence. "The second aspect is an examen of conscience in which we uncover those areas that need cleansing, purifying, and healing." The Prayer of Examen is an extraordinary connection to God as we seek to join with God in seeing deeper into the reality of our hearts condition. It is challenging to be sure but it is a joy-filled experience as we realize that in this God loves us, delights to connect with us, and with tender, firmness draws us to a deeper understand of ourselves and the true connection we are made to have with the Lord.

Things to consider as you prepare:

Relax! God speaks to us. Be willing to listen. Ask God to help you to hear from him and the grace to receive what he gives. As you ask God for the grace to hear and receive from him remember its a gift not an accomplishment. Know that its Gods desire to be known. Worry not! God shows up! As you explore the Examen of Consciousness reflect on the thoughts, feelings and actions of your day. How has God been at work? How have you responded? Have there been intersections that God reveals to you where the Lord was urging you to be attentive to an easily missed need of someone God longs to touch through you? Sometimes its as simple as just being "present" with someone. Was there a moment when God revealed the beauty and wonder of the Lords creation but we were either to sleepy, busy or distracted to recognize it?

Throughout the Old Testament God called on his people to remember the ways that the Lord has been at work in the midst of the people. Reflect on your larger history with God. Where has God been at work throughout your life? In 1 Samuel 7:12 such a memorial was physical and was called "Ebenezer". He was giving people a specific way of remembering as a way of saying, ,,Here is where God met me and helped me. As you explore the Examen of Conscience ask the Lord to search the deepest part of your heart. In this discipline we ask to see what is truly in us. Its a joint search. God will help us to remain open to this revelation if we will stay in the search with him. We are "listening more than we are defending" and know that "he will show us what we need to see when we need to see it." In discovering what God reveals we can bring all of ourselves to God as an offering to the Lord. Another tendency can be to look so deeply at our brokenness and who we truly are that we jump to the declaration that we are unredeemable. Remember that God is alongside us in this journey and the Lord is the one who clearly declares that we, by Gods grace, are indeed redeemable. Gods "Yes" is louder and stronger than our "No". Find comfort in the truth that God knows precisely who we are and loves us even there. There are a variety of different ways that we can enter in to the Prayer of Examen. A journal can provide a tactile way to explore Gods workings in our day. It also serves as a reminder (an Ebenezer if you will) and an encouragement when days are hard and God may seem hard to see. A journal is by no means the only way nor is it necessarily the best way for everyone. Some may want to meditate on the Lords Prayer or the Ten Commandments as a structure to help them in their examen. Richard Foster tells the story of a summer when he played basketball with God. Each evening at about 10:00 he would go to the little basketball court in their driveway. As he shot baskets by himself he would ask God to do a spiritual inventory of the day. Both the good and the bad were brought to mind and a unique experience of connection with God occurred. Not everyone plays basketball. This is just an example that shows we can explore a variety of ways to be present with God and enter in to an ever deeper reflection on God in our lives and an examination of who we truly are.

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