The Prayer of Examen

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The last three years of my life I have spent much time in reflection and discernment in an effort to listen to God’s call on my life.  Over a period of time, I had felt a certain sense of dissatisfaction with aspects of my life and felt that perhaps God had something particular in store for me.  I realized that I needed to make a more intentional effort at figuring out what that was.  Part of that included discussion with other people.  A great portion of it was working to listen to God more effectively.  Jesus understood his mission which was to culminate in his death on the cross; signifying God’s mission of humanity’s redemption was achieved.  Jesus reiterated God’s mission and his understanding of it saying “not my will, but thy will be done”. The prayer of Examen can help with this process.  This prayer is derived from prayer exercises developed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  According to ignatianspirituality.com “the Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.  The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.” – See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen

The Examen has 5 steps and is recommended for midday or end of day.

1. Stillness:  Become aware of God’s presence.  Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and to help you to look honestly at your actions this day and how you have responded in different situations.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Recall the gifts that God has given you that you can share with others.

3. Reflection: Looking Back on Your Day. Recall your feelings and motives to see whether you considered all of the possibilities and freely followed God’s will. Ask yourself when you were conscious of God’s presence. Think about opportunities you had to grow in faith, hope, and charity

4. Sorrow: Asking for Forgiveness. Express sorrow for the times you failed to follow God’s direction and ask him to be with you the next time you encounter a similar situation. Give thanks to God for the grace that enabled you to follow his will freely.

5. Hopefulness: Resolving to Grow.  Ask God to help you as you look forward to a new day tomorrow. Resolve to cooperate and trust in the loving guidance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Conclude the day’s prayerful review with the Lord’s Prayer.  – See more at: http://www.loyolapress.com/prayerfully-reviewing-your-day-daily-examen.

Written by Kelly Hansen, 2013/14 Resurrection Scholar and seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology.

Contemplative prayer

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The day my son Will turned 15, my loving boy transformed into a snarky teenager. He was very quiet to begin with, but at that point in time, his vocabulary shrunk to about three syllables, “good,” “hey” and “k.”  I struggled for two years trying to figure out ways to improve our relationship, yet the more I talked, the more he pulled away. I tried to control and manipulate the relationship so that it pleased me and made me happy, but it wasn’t working. The harder I strived, the more frustrated I became.  Finally, I decided to join in on the things he enjoyed doing, but I wasn’t adept enough at Play Station 3, so that left watching TV as the one thing we had in common. Anything that had “pawn” in the title was quickly eliminated from my point of view, and anything on Oprah’s network was eliminated from Will’s point of view, but we were able to find a couple of shows that were mutually agreeable, Royal’s games, Chopped, The Voice, and the Bachelor. For over a year we sat in the family room together and watched these shows, rarely exchanging words, but we found that we enjoyed our time together.  There was no more pressure or expectation, simply sitting together in each other’s presence was enough. Our relationship became relaxed and comfortable.

Sometimes our relationship with God can be like this. We talk to God, but get little communication back. We get frustrated in our relationship with God and the harder we try to pray the more discouraged we get, until sometimes we give up praying altogether.  If this sounds familiar to you, I invite you to try contemplative prayer.  Jesus says, Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me,” John 15:4. That’s what contemplative prayer means, abiding, resting, remaining or relaxing in God’s presence. Contemplative prayer might look different for each of us, it can be simply sitting quietly for 20 minutes, taking a walk in nature, baking bread, gardening, knitting, or anything else that helps you still your mind. The key is the intentionality of “being” with God in these times instead of forcing a relationship.

Brennan Manning, in “Abba’s Child” says, “Contemplative prayer is above all else looking at the person of Jesus. The prayer of simple awareness means we don’t have to get anywhere because we are already there…Living in the awareness of the risen Jesus is not a trivial pursuit for the bored and lonely or a defense mechanism enabling us to cope the stress and sorrow of life. It is the key that unlocks the door to grasping the meaning of existence. All day and every day we are being reshaped into the image of Christ.”

 My experience with contemplative prayer has been a blessing that has deepened my relationship with God and then extended into my relationship with others. If you are interested in learning more, join me in a six week Lenten Prayer Study on Resurrection Care Nights this spring beginning March 6th.  Click here to learn more and sign up for this class.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

www.cor.org/prayer

 

Believe

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“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments.”  1 John 5:1-2

I grew up in a non-religious household—in fact, I consider myself the non-religious and nominally religious poster child! However, when I left home to go away to college at the University of Illinois, I developed a yearning to grow closer to God and a deep desire to learn what it means to become more holy.  The three religions that had the most prominent presence on my campus in 1980 were born-again Christianity, Judaism and the Hare Krishna movement. In all honesty, I chose Christianity because upon my minimal exploration, it seemed like the easiest religion to join. Exploring more deeply, I read the four Gospels and concluded that if everyone in the world followed Jesus, we would have an amazing, peace-filled, beautiful world.

One day, at nineteen, I knelt at my bedside and prayed what a friend taught me, “Jesus, I’m sorry for my sins, I want to be more like you; I invite you into my heart and want you to be my Lord and savior.”

I didn’t feel any different after that short prayer, but from that moment on I believed that I was a Christian. Was I one hundred percent certain, without a doubt, that Jesus was the Messiah? Did I understand everything I read about Jesus in the Gospels? Of course not. Was Jesus someone in whom I wanted to place my trust and confidence? Was he someone whose path I wanted to follow and who I wanted to learn to love? Yes, because I believed with my heart that there was something meaningful and valuable and holy about the life of Jesus that I wanted to be part of.

In the three decades that have passed since, God continues to reveal or suggest ways for me to become more perfected in his love, while I try to do my best to love God and keep God’s commandments. If you believe you would like to open your heart to the peace and well-being Jesus offers, that is all the belief that’s required. The prayer I prayed above is sufficient. Then simply be open to where Jesus leads you next. To continue the conversation, you may comment below —we ’d love to hear from you.

—Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Change My Heart, O God

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I was baptized in 1998 and I remember that day as vividly as if it happened yesterday. I had great desire for my heart to be changed at that time of my life, but I grew up in a non-religious home, so making the promise to love, follow, and serve Jesus for the rest of my life was going to be a huge decision in my faith journey. I prayed, “God, if baptism is really the promise to start new, then I’m ready. Sign me up. And by the way, God, just to make sure this is really what you want me to do, please provide a concrete sign for me. I would like to see a white dove. It can fly by any time between now and my scheduled baptism, or maybe I will see it perched somewhere, but when I see it, I know it is a sign from you that I should get baptized.” I didn’t tell anyone about my prayer.

The gospels tell us that Jesus begins his public ministry with an act of obedience by getting baptized in the Jordan River by his cousin John. As he rises up from the water, he receives an affirmation by God reminding him who he was created to be. God says, “You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,” and then a dove or the sensation of a dove alights upon Jesus. That is why I wanted to see a dove as my sign, but the sign never came.

Even the morning of my baptism, I was half expecting to see a dove descend from the ceiling of the church, but that never happened either. I was baptized at the end of the service, and I along with the other new members left the sanctuary first so that we could be greeted by the congregation after the benediction. Just as I was exiting the sanctuary, a friend met me at the door and handed me a congratulatory card she made for me. In it was a hand drawn picture of a beautiful white dove outlined in glitter. Needless to say, I was in tears as my heart burst in gratitude. God required my obedience first before the affirmation.

The biblical message and my faith experience both have confirmed this equation: Prayer + Obedience to God = affirmation by God that we are God’s beloved. Beginning a new year always invites us to remember that affirmation and renew our faith. If one of your goals for 2014 is the desire to grow deeper in prayer, to be more forgiving, to be more compassionate, to offer more grace to persons who God sets in your path each day, here is a hymn-prayer to help express that desire.
Change my heart, O God,
make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God,
may I be like you.
You are the Potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me,
this is what I pray.

Change my heart, O God,
make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God,
may I be like you.

The Faith We Sing Hymnal #2152

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

 


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