I Want You To Grow Spiritually 16: The Examen
|On one of my travels to northern MN I bought a delightful book, Sacred Listening: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola by James L. Wakefield, who teaches at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. The beauty of this book is that it takes an historically Roman Catholic spiritual exercise and makes it accessible to Protestants both in it's language and more pragmatically, it's format for individuals and groups.|
Let me say to you: Wusses do not pursue the Ignatian exercises. No wimps allowed. It is a rigorous pursuit of God in journaling, meditation and spiritual friendship. It's not that it is intellectually challenging or some how only for "spiritual giants" (whoever they might be). It's just that it takes constancy, persistence and endurance.
This book piqued my interest in what is simply known as The Examen. An ancient spiritual exercise of the Jesuits that is practiced by many twice day: at lunch and before bed time. A short practice of reviewing your day with God and looking for his work in your life. IgnatianSpirituality.com describes The Examen:
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.A quick Google search will bring you a plethora of results and a variety of descriptions of The Examen. What they all have in common are that it is essentially a 5 step process that helps people to have a moment of immediacy with God, recognizing his immediate presence and willingness to talk with you about your day. You review together -- with God -- your day, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring to your attention certain aspects, showing you where you were in concert with Him and other places where you were not so much.
I think that Charismatics Evangelicals and Pietists would like Ignatius. Again, from IgnatianSpirituality.com:
St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. End the Daily Examen with the Our Father.Again from the multitude of Google links you can find several versions of The Examen questions or movements and each of them have distinctive traits that are helpful. Two stand out:
IgnatianSpirituality.com: The Examen This is an extraordinarily useful page with a couple short videos and mp3's that could be put on your iPod. It also where I find a link to a cyberspace treasure: Examen.me (see below). A related page, IgnatianSpirituality.com: How Can I Pray, gives further explanation.
Examen.me is an extremely well done site giving you the opportunity to do 6 different types of Examen right at your computer. While IgnatianSpirituality.com says it only offers "only one being close to the traditional Ignatian version", the other ones are equally useful. It offers "Scripture Examens [which] will guide you to mediate on scripture with the goal of life-obedience." I can't say enough good things about this sacred portal in cyberspace.
You can create an account at Examen.me which will allow you to journal your answers for each movement of The Examen and keep an archive. I personally like journaling with pen and journal. But anyone who has journaled knows the value of being able to review previous journal entries to see where God has taken us, or answered prayers, or interacted with us. Examen.me gives you just that privately online.
Here are a couple of different versions of The Examen for your use. The first one is from IgnatianSpirituality.com and I like it particularly for #5 "Look forward to tomorrow." That is hope giving.
BeliefNet: The Prayer of Examen
METAmorpha: Look here for links to Ignatian prayer and Prayer of Examen. Sponsored by IVP.
The Examen is not really about trying harder in your faith. It is primarily about living with God with immediacy. I like that. It is hope giving and Christ centered. I like that too.
Please note that I have only scratched the surface of explaining The Examen and have not at all delved into the riches of further Ignatian spirituality and exercises. But there is a rich spiritual ancient tradition for you in this in greater depth. Go deep.
This is part 16 in a 20 part series on spiritual growth. If you feel like you are not growing deeper in your faith or relationship to God, if you are not loving and serving others more, if you have a sense of 'stuckness' in your spiritual journey, and you really want to grow, the answer might not be to try harder. All too often I have heard the same solutions offered over and over, 'All you have to do is have daily devotions, pray more, read more of the Bible, be in worship every week and get more involved in the church.' In other words try harder.
Sometimes that doesn't work and I'm going to offer some suggestions that might help you move forward.
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 1: Give Up Daily Devotions
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 2: See A Counselor
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 3: Spiritual Direction
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 4: Get A New Church
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 5: Go On Retreat
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 6: Fight A Spiritual Battle & Win
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 7: Take A Seminary or College Class
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 8: Take Communion Weekly
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 10: Observe The Daily Office & Church Year
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 11: Get Tough on Sin
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 12: Start Journaling
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 13: Time For Fasting
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 14: Forgive Yourself
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 15: Participate in an Alpha Class
Note: Part 9 isn't published yet. I'll get to it eventually.