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Prayer of Examen

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 “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” Psalm 73:23 

I have had an uncharacteristically hard time going to sleep lately. Typically, if my head is within 10 feet of my pillow I am already entering sleep mode. In college I made the choice not to do homework or watch movies in my bed. At the same time my friends were buying lap-desks for the express purpose of doing those things in theirs. I worked on training myself to equate my bed with sleep, though, and it paid off. I’ve been a great sleeper since!  

Fast forward to my return from a retreat I took a few weeks ago, though, and it has been quite the opposite. Each night, after I finally get my children to sleep and the world starts to quiet down, my mind races off in more directions than I can process. I have prayerfully talked to God about why this is happening. The entire focus of my retreat, after all, was stillness before the Lord. Out of that came a refocus on the Sabbath and the rhythms of God’s grace - which I have realized we can often miss due to our rhythms of life, accumulation, work, society and so on. What the Spirit is showing me is just how prone to wander my mind is. It is quite literally countercultural to have a quiet mind and be a “person of peace.”  

One practice which I have used sporadically in years prior that has become an increasingly important and meaningful part of my evenings is to pray the Prayer of Examen. This prayer was coined by St. Ignatius of Loyola centuries ago as a practice of ending each day. I have given the basic outline below. I decided that becoming a person of peace means, among other things, ending each day at the feet of the Prince of Peace. 

Steps of Examen 

First, I relish the good. 

This step involves asking God to reveal all the gifts and graces He has given us this day. These can be big things, like His love, our safety, etc., to smaller things like a sweet text from a friend, a moment of joy, a new perspective and so on. For each we spend a moment in thanksgiving. 

Second, I request. 

Here we ask the Holy Spirit to help us see ourselves as we truly are. This means we relinquish our “rose colored glasses,” but we also don’t heavily brood over the parts of ourselves we are unhappy with. With the Spirit’s help, we see ourselves increasingly through God’s eyes – eyes of Love. 

Third, I review.  
Here, we review the day hour by hour. We re-live each moment, lingering at important moments. We talk to God about them and be silent enough to allow Him to talk to us about them. 

Fourth, I repent. 

We continue in thanks and praise as we review the day. When we recall the difficult moments, when our hearts were turned against God, ourselves or our neighbor, we repent. We also repent of missed opportunities to exhibit, and relish in, His love and grace. We do this with an understanding that His heart is for us and His love is greater than all else. 

Fifth, I resolve. 

With what we have learned and understood in this time about God, ourself, and our journey with Him, we resolve to be the person He is leading us to be – to accept His invitation to look more like Him in the morning than we did today. This takes God’s help and His good work in our lives. Understanding not only that He WILL do that but also that He DELIGHTS to do that ends my evenings in peace and sets my mind at ease.   

Centering my thought life on God through prayer in the evenings has been extremely helpful for me. This is not at all something you HAVE to do, but consider it an open invitation to join me if you find your bed time mind seems to have a “mind” of its own. May we, like the Psalmist, remind our wandering minds that we are always with Him; that He holds us by our right hands. - Jason Simon, Minister to Students

Posted by Jason Simon