For the last few years, I have been adding some spiritual exercises to my life to help me better hear and listen to the God whispers all around and within me in the midst of life. Let me just confess that I don’t do these religiously or perfectly… sometimes I’ve fallen asleep as I’ve attempted to practice and pray! Ha! Ultimately, in my own kind of rhythm with Him, I have learned how to adapt some of these exercises to help me draw near and listen.
Today I'd like to share 'The Daily Examen' with you.
THE DAILY EXAMEN
I first came across this exercise through my spiritual mentor, who then recommended I read 'The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life.' Author Kevin O’Brien writes, “St Ignatius believed that we can find God in all things, at every moment, even in the most ordinary times.” AND I couldn’t agree more!
My life journey with Jesus has taught me that God is in and through and at work in all things. Having children has slowed me down to once again experience the wonder of God-at-work in and through it all. But I knew there was more to this WILD FAITH walk so I began to explore!
On pages 75-77 of 'The Ignatian Adventure', I found the following headings, but have given each section a few of my personal thoughts around these exercises.
Before I begin I try to find a quiet space… It’s so hard with little ones so I find the bathtub or in my bed just before I go to sleep helpful spaces.
I quiet myself, invite God to be with me in this sacred space of time and ground myself in reality… what can I hear, smell, feel, sense?
Then I work my way through these five exercises, I don’t always do all of them, perhaps I’m happy with one or two and like I said before, sometimes I fall asleep before I finish, especially when I practice this in my bed!
- Pray for God’s Help
I take time to ask God to help me be deeply grateful and honest as I think about what happened in this day. Reflecting on the day helps me to to be aware and awake of the work of the Holy Spirit was working through me, through others and all creation. It helps me to contemplate the world the way God may have seen it to this day.
- Give thanks for the gifts of this day
Go through the details of the day, not hour-by-hour but just as they come to mind, be thankful for the gifts you see in others and within your own life. Thank Him for them. An attitude of gratitude changes the way you see things and gives you the ability to see the goodness of God. Kevin suggests to just let the day go through you alongside the gentle guidance of God.
- Pray over the significant feelings that surface as you replay the day
God is sometimes speaking to us through our “interior movements,” these movements can look like your feelings, your emotions, your desires, your attractions, your repulsions and your moods. Being attentive to these interior movements may help you discern some strong feelings of grief, joy, regret, anxiety, hope, self-doubt, excitement, confusion and more.
Feelings help us to locate where we are at, feeling them isn’t a bad thing... it’s sometimes what we do with those feelings that can lead us down paths we may regret…
I usually pick just one or two that stand out to me and ask the Holy Spirit to help me discern why I’m feeling these things. A couple of questions that are good to ask yourself and Holy Spirit are;
- Did these feelings draw me closer to God? Did they help me grow in my faith and into Jesus more? Did they make me feel whole, alive or human? Did they challenge you to grow or connect?
- Did the feelings lead me away from God, make me less faithful, or loving? Was I more self-centered or anxious? Was I lured into self-doubt or confusion? Did it lead to relational breakdown?
If you feel shame when you become aware of the interior movements, bring that before God, ask for forgiveness (See step 4) or talk to a trusted friend about it.
- Rejoice and seek forgiveness
Often as I’ve discovered the interior movement within I can either feel great joy over the work of the Spirit in my life or I can feel great shame or sorrow. Take all of these inner responses to Him, rejoice with Him or ask for forgiveness and rest in the fact that you are forgiven and God is still at work in you. Thank Him for the grace of awareness because awareness is the beginning of healing and restoration.
- Look to tomorrow
God is with you right now, as you lay down to sleep and as you arise the next day, use this time to thank Him for the day to come, to ask Him for anything specific you need, be it His help or provision in some form. Take time to pray for things in your diary or specific people that come to mind. Then ask God to give you the grace you need, for example, you may need confidence to present something at work, you may need wisdom in making a decision, you may need patience as you parent a young child or you may need the courage to face something that is difficult for you right now.
Close by speaking a heartfelt and honest prayer to God or with a familiar prayer such as 'Our Father.'