I love the sensation of being out on a lake in a boat – a quiet lake, a row boat, no one else around.
Having rowed the boat out to that quiet place, I lift the oars and let them rest on the sides. Then, I lean back and listen . . .
What do I hear? I hear the water lapping against the boat, the movement of the water, birds, the breeze and the myriad of living things around the lake. I hear my heartbeat, my breath and my thoughts. In this place of quiet and solitude, I begin to reflect on my day and ask God to help me see where God was present with me. As the moments come to mind I look for God and for my response or awareness of God or lack thereof. As one memory becomes more focused, I pause there and wait for God to illumine that for which I will give thanks and that for which I will ask forgiveness. Resting with God I give thanks and pray for the grace to be and live always in God.
Sitting up and looking around the lake, I begin to row back to shore. As I did so, looking at where I’ve been in order to get to where I’m going, rowing backwards, I realize, rowing backward is the only way forward. Thus it is with the Examen. Regularly taking time to reflect on God’s presence and action in my life leads me to understand how God is calling me to live my life forward while understanding it backwards.
The practice I described above is that of the Examen Prayer – often attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Spiritual Exercises he developed. It has five basic parts.
- Resting in the presence of God.
- Reflecting back on the day, recognizing moments of blessing with gratitude.
- Focusing on God’s presence & action in your day.
- Become aware of times you’ve walked away from God or did something you regret. Ask God’s forgiveness and if necessary plan to make amends to any you have wronged.
- Pray in thanksgiving for all that has been and ask God to give you the grace you need to live as God wills now and into tomorrow.
I like to close my prayer time by singing the Sucipe prayer, which was set to music by John Foley, SJ and is sung here by a group of young women: https://youtu.be/ItJnhOEPiS0
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