We have looked at "Simple Prayer","Prayer of the Forsaken " and this week "The Prayer of Examen."
Links to the previous posts here
The Prayer of Examen
Examen- Similar to examination without the academic context. From Latin and refers to the tongue or weight indicator on a balance scale, conveying the idea of an accurate assessment of the true situation.
Lost to most modern church services.
Biblical examples e.g. Psalms “Yahweh, you examine me and know me” (Ps 139:1) King David (1 Chron 28:9) Paul (1 Cor 2:10)
The examen of God is something of immeasurable strength and empowerment.
What is It?
Like two sides of a door it has two aspects.
Examen of Consciousness – How God has been present to us throughout the day and how we have responded
Examen of Conscience- Where we discover the areas that need cleansing, purifying and healing
Examen of Consciousness- The Remembrance of Love
Prayerful reflection on the thoughts, feelings and actions of our days to see how God has been at work among us and how we have responded (e.g. was the boisterous neighbor merely a rude interruption that ruined a quiet evening or was it the voice of God urging us to be attentive to the pain and loneliness of those around us.)
The examen of consciousness is the means God uses to make us more aware of our surroundings.
There is nothing complicated or unusual here, only that God seeks to be where we are and for us to see and hear what is around us and through it all to discern the footprints of the Holy.
It is one way to recall the mighty deeds of God. For us to remember. Scripture is filled with such examples: remember the covenant God made with Abraham, remember how he delivered us from Egypt, remember the Ten Commandments…remember, remember remember. Remember Calvalry.
The examen of consciousness allows us to raise our own Ebenezer (1 Sam 7:12) and declaring, “Here is where God met me and helped me.” We are remembering.
Examen of Conscience- The Scrutiny of Love
We invite God to to search our hearts to the depths. Psalmist, “Search me oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts…(Ps 139:23-24)
We ask to see what is truly in us, without apology or defense and God goes with us. The purpose of this journey is for our good and for our healing.
God goes with us:
- If we are the lone examiners we will justify and rationalize to declare our innocence. We will “call evil good and good evil,” (Isa 5:20)
Since God is with us we are listening more and defending less. He will show us what we need to see and when we need to see it.
- Self-flagellation. Left on our own it is easy to think of ourselves as unredeemable. With God along side, we are protected and comforted. God knows that too much introspection can do more harm than good and He will never show us more than we can handle.
Madam Guyon (French mystic 17th century) “If the examen is solely a self-examination, we will always end up with excessive praise or blame. But under the searchlight of the great Physician we can expect only good always.”
It is not without pain but can be likened to a purifying fire and we can welcome its cleansing.
The Purpose of the Examen-
It produces within us the priceless gift of self-knowledge. A gift modern man has not found particularly useful, though even the pagans knew its worth: “Know thyself.” – Socrates
“Along this path of prayer, self knowledge and the thought of one’s sins is the bread
with which all palates must be fed no matter how delicate they may be; they cannot be
sustained without this bread.” Teresa of Avila
Paul, urges us to offer our bodies, our very selves as a living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1). This offering cannot be made in some abstract way with pious words or religious acts. No, it must be rooted in the acceptance of the concrete details of who we are and the way we live. We must come to accept and even honor our creatureliness. The offering of ourselves can only be the offering of our lived experience, because this alone is who we are. And who we are not who we want to be is the only offering we have to give. We give God therefore not just our strengths but also our weaknesses, not just our giftedness but also our brokenness. Our duplicity, our lust, our narcissism, our sloth all are laid on the altar of sacrifice..
We must not deny or ignore the depth of our evil, even the truth about our shadow side sets us free (John 8:32)
How To Practice the Prayer of Examen
Turn inward, not to become more introspective, or to find within some inner strength or an inner savior. Vain search!
This journey inward does not stop within ourselves, but drives us through ourselves to find God.
- Keeping a spiritual journal
- Meditating on the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer