An Ignatian Prayer Adventure: Week 2

An Ignatian Prayer AdventureSt. Ignatius believed that we can find God in all things, at every moment, even in the most ordinary times. To do this, we must take time to reflect on our experience, to look at the data of a day and discern their meaning.

Ignatius recommended a five-step method of prayer called the Examen to help us find God in all things. The Examen encourages us to look back over a period of time and pay attention to what is happening in and around us. Then we look ahead, to what comes next, so that we can act in a way worthy of our vocation as Christians.

These are the five steps of the Examen:

  1. Pray for God’s help.
  2. Give thanks for the gifts of this day.
  3. Pray over significant feelings.
  4. Rejoice and seek forgiveness.
  5. Look to tomorrow.

This week, we’ll reflect on the steps of the Examen for five days. And for two days we will concentrate on listening to God.

Day 1

Pray for God’s Help

The Examen begins by opening your heart to God. You want to see with God’s perspective, not your own. You may choose to make one or more of your prayer periods outside, soaking in the natural beauty of creation. Use all of your senses to experience the world. This week, as you walk the streets and go about your daily tasks, be attentive to the variety of God’s creations, especially in the people you encounter.

The Grace I Seek

I pray for the following graces: wonder at God’s ongoing creation; gratitude for the gift of God creating me and creating the world.

Conversation with God

There is nothing magical about praying. Prayer is a conversation with God. So invite God to be with you during this sacred time. Ask God to help you be grateful and honest as you look back on the day. With God’s help, be attentive to how the Spirit was working in and through you, others, and creation. Let yourself see your day as God sees it.

Read

Read Psalm 121.

Pray the psalm slowly. Open your heart to God. Consider: What is God like? How can God help me?

For Reflection

Lingering Over God

God’s touch, though taking place in a moment of time, lives on within us forever. When we experience God’s love, God’s self-giving, we are never the same. We may return to some of our old ways of being and acting, but deep down within we are not the same.

We can continue to let an experience of God bear fruit within us by going back to it and lingering over it. Through this remembering, lingering, and reliving process, we open ourselves to God—we allow God to move within us, to touch our hearts again so that our own experiences of God ripple deep within us and can continue to make a difference in our lives.

—Maureen Conroy, The Discerning Heart

Day 2

Give Thanks for the Gifts of This Day

The second step of the Examen is giving thanks. For Ignatius, gratitude is the first, most important step on the spiritual journey. An attitude of gratitude, practiced often enough, helps us find God in all things and can transform the way we look at our life and at other people.

The Grace I Seek

I pray for the following graces: wonder at God’s ongoing creation; gratitude for the gift of God creating me and creating the world.

Review the Day

Review the day and name the blessings, from the most significant and obvious to the more common and ordinary. God (not the devil) is found in the details, so be very specific! As you take stock, honor the gifts of others in your life, but don’t forget to recognize the gifts in you, for they, too, are God given.

Don’t feel that you must mechanically go through the day hour by hour or make a list of all the day’s gifts. Instead, savor whatever gifts God shows you. With God’s gentle guidance, let the day go through you.

Read

Read Psalm 100.

Read slowly and prayerfully. Ask yourself: What am I thankful for?

For Reflection

His Divine Majesty Is Truly in All Things

Day 3

Pray over Significant Feelings

In the third step of the Examen we look at our feelings. Ignatius believed that God communicates with us not only through mental insight but also through our “interior movements,” as he called them: our feelings, emotions, desires, attractions, repulsions, and moods. Feelings are neither positive nor negative: it is what you do with them that raises moral questions.

The Grace I Seek

I pray for the following graces: wonder at God’s ongoing creation; gratitude for the gift of God creating me and creating the world.

Reflect on Your Feelings

As you reflect on the day, you may notice some strong feelings arise. They may be painful or pleasing—for example, joy, peace, sadness, anxiety, confusion, hope, compassion, regret, anger, confidence, jealousy, self-doubt, boredom, or excitement.

Pick one or two strong feelings or movements and pray from them. Ask God to help you understand what aroused those feelings and where they led you:

Did they draw you closer to God? Did they help you grow in faith, hope, and love? Did they make you more generous with your time and talent? Did they make you feel more alive, whole, and human? Did they lead you to feel more connected to others or challenge you to life-giving growth?

Or did the feelings lead you away from God, make you less faithful, hopeful, and loving? Did they cause you to become more self-centered or anxious? Did they lure you into doubt and confusion? Did they lead to the breakdown of relationships?

Read

Read Psalm 117.

For Reflection

Ignatius’s Great Discovery

The point has often been made that the Christian Gospel is a story of strength and triumph arising from weakness and defeat. The Savior is a poor man in a provincial, backwater land. Salvation comes about through suffering and death. In the words of Mary’s Magnificat prayer: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

We’re afflicted with divided hearts that cause us to be burdened by angst, uncertainty, and fear when making important decisions. But this very confusion of thoughts and feelings is the place where we find God’s footprints. It’s the raw material for discernment.

This was Ignatius’s great discovery.

—J. Michael Sparough, SJ; Jim Manney; Tim Hipskind, SJ,

What’s Your Decision?

Day 4

Rejoice and Seek Forgiveness

The fourth step of the Examen is reflecting on what you can do better.

The Grace I Seek

I pray for the following graces: wonder at God’s ongoing creation; gratitude for the gift of God creating me and creating the world.

Closeness to God

Rejoice in those times that you were brought closer to God, and ask forgiveness for those times today when you resisted God’s presence in your life. Praise God for the grace of awareness given to you during this time of prayer, even if you became aware of things you are not proud of. This awareness is the beginning of healing and conversion.

Read

Read Psalm 51 (a psalm of contrition).

Pray the psalm slowly in a spirit of confidence.

For Reflection

You did a marvel, Lord Jesus Christ,

and make me feel beside myself in surprise.

My spirit glistens with Your rising.

I smile and smile with You.

I am drowning in the laughter of Your friends.

You have won, Lord, we know You have won!

You have defeated all the worst that we could do,

each alone and all together.

You crushed the powers of darkness and of death

to walk peacefully again in our flesh,

now and forever.

Come to me, great Lord of Life,

as You come to all Your friends.

Send me to console those around me who hurt.

Come, and send Your friends into this daily world

to labor full of hope for the Reign of God.

—Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ, Choosing Christ in the World

Day 5

Look to Tomorrow

The Examen ends with a look at the day to come. Just as God is with you today, God will be with you as you sleep and when you wake up tomorrow. Invite God to be a part of your future. What do you need God’s help with? Be very practical and specific. If it’s helpful, look at your schedule for tomorrow. God wants to be there with you, in the most dramatic and mundane moments of your life. Ask God to give you the grace you need—for example, courage, confidence, wisdom, patience, determination, or peace. Or perhaps there is someone you would like to pray for by name.

The Grace I Seek

I pray for the following graces: wonder at God’s ongoing creation; gratitude for the gift of God creating me and creating the world.

Read

Read Luke 11:1-13.

Invite God to be a part of your future. What do you need God’s help with?

For Reflection

The Examen: Alive In The Present Moment by Chris Lowney

Day 6

“Do Not Be Afraid”

Our reflections for the next two days focus on listening to God.

God is always trying to get our attention in ways both obvious and subtle. We are reminded of the prophet Elijah who, standing on a mountaintop, found God not in a mighty wind, or in an earthquake, or in fire, but in a “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:11-13). We can find God in the busyness of our lives and in the silence of our prayer.

The Grace I Seek

I pray for the following grace: a grateful awareness of the many ways in which God calls me.

Read

Read Luke 5:1-11 (call of the disciples by the shore).

Listen to Jesus telling Simon Peter, and you, “Do not be afraid.” Ask: Where do I experience God calling me in the midst of my daily life?

For Reflection

A Poem by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Day 7

“What Are You Looking For?”

Only when we are really free can we hear God’s call. We reflect on how God calls us right now in the concrete particulars of our lives. Do not worry about making big decisions or changing the way you live. That may come later. Instead, simply marvel that God calls each of us specially. Listen not only to the call but also to the One who calls.

We encounter God in a variety of ways: in the people around us and in the work we are doing; in something we read or see in the world; and in the inspiration of Scripture and the church’s liturgy. We also find God in the holy desires brewing deep in our hearts. This is a central insight to Ignatian spirituality. Because God, our Creator, gives us life and because we are the image of God, God’s desires and our deepest desires are one and the same. What we truly desire is also what God desires for us.

The Grace I Seek

I pray for the following grace: a grateful awareness of the many ways in which God calls me.

Read

Read John 1:35-39.

Listen to Jesus say to the disciples, and to you: “What are you looking for?” How do you respond?

For Reflection

A Prayer by Blessed John Henry Newman


Additional Reading for Week 2

Lunchtime Examen

Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards through Your Day

Reflection and Our Active Lives

Bloggers’ Reflections on These Spiritual Exercises

Reflections by Paul Brian Campbell, SJ, Vinita Hampton Wright, and Jim Manney:

Our Deepest Desires

Finding God in All Things

The Examen Is One of My Favorite Prayers

The History of One Day

Finding God in All Things with Carrie Newcomer


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