This post is based on Week Two of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
Toilet paper? Tax bills and late payments? Finding God in all things isn’t always easy. The Examen helps me see goodness and grace. To get me started, I use a formula learned from a holy friend: God, I come before you, knowing you love me and cherish me, enlighten and guide me. I embrace you, oh God. You live and grow in me.
With these words I invite God’s Holy Spirit to be revealed to me. My faith says God is always present, even when I don’t feel it. Come, Holy Spirit!
Next, I launch into at least three gratitude statements. I may start with distant things, like tropical orchids, snowy mountains, and shadowy clouds. For an entire year I kept a written log of these, and rereading pages at random invariably makes me smile. I wrote “pictures, pirates, and grandchildren” on one day and “safe travels, laundry done, and central heating systems” on another. Yes, I believe God is infinite, present in the silliest, smallest, and most significant aspects of life, from parts of atoms to beyond any multiverse. Often my list of gratitude leads me directly into noticing prominent features of my day.
I choose bedtime to review the day, despite the self-discipline it takes to avoid temptations to go straight to sleep. One strategy I use is staying seated on the edge of my bed. When I try to pray with my head on the pillow, invariably sleep overtakes my prayer. Is this God blessing me with what I need most or me failing at my prayer commitment? My Examen needs an Examen!
A wise Jesuit years ago taught me about a particular Examen, which is a way of asking God to help me look at one particular aspect of my life and to pray about where I’ve seen God in that corner. For example, I can look back over my last week of praying the Examen. What stands out? I was sick, so the shorter Examens on Monday and Tuesday were self-care. By Wednesday I was better, but I still shortened my Examen. Jesus, I regret doing that now. I didn’t make sufficient time for you. I hope, with your grace, to do better.
As I examine my Examen practice, I notice that starting with gratitude has been easy of late. I am grateful that we haven’t run out of toilet paper this week, and that we even have this invention. I’m grateful for the grace of humility to admit my error on the tax bill and the deserved late payment.
I am deeply grateful for God inviting me to have an Examen time at all. It’s one of God’s concrete calls to me. As I close my evening Examen, my goal is to end with the words of Jesus on the Cross: “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
I get into bed and lay down. Because I have tinnitus, I regularly hear my own heartbeat. I imagine that my pillow is Christ’s chest, and the heartbeat I hear is his. I repeat, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.” Sleep welcomes me into her realm. I’m out like a light.