Just before his ascension, Jesus tells the apostles that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judaea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church’s reason for existence in the time between Jesus’s ascension and return is to be a community of witness. Which led me to pose the question on Sunday, to what is your life giving witness? If someone is observing your life—the way you drive, the way you interact with people in line at the grocery store or the DMV, or at work, or on social media, the way you treat your family, the way you spend your money, the way you spend your time—observing all of that, to what is that life giving witness?
And I suggested the practice of the Examen as a way of discerning the answer to that question and as a way of cultivating friendship with Jesus. The Examen is a hallmark of Ignatian Spirituality. By praying the Examen we seek to bring our experiences and desires from the day before the Lord, and just sort of sit with that, taking stock. This helps us to be full persons before God, and to be honest with ourselves about who we are, what we desire, and for what we’re living. My family has begun the practice of taking a few evenings a week to sit together and go through an Examen prayer. It only takes about ten minutes, and the payoff can be significant.
The format we use is organized around the Acronym “STRIP.”
· Settle into your time of prayer. Sit still, listening to the sounds around you, take slow, steady breaths, and seek to be fully present in this time and place. Recognize the patient, loving presence of God with you.
· Thank God for the blessings of the day. Call to mind all the opportunities and gifts you’ve received, and acknowledge their source in God.
· Recall the events of the day: what you’ve done, what’s happened to you, the way you’ve interacted with people. Just let these memories come and go, washing over you as you re-experience the day. Ask yourself: where was God in this? Where was I open to and responsive to the movement of God in and around me, and where was I closed off?
· Interact with God about your day, maybe focusing on a pattern or theme throughout the day, or perhaps just the event that most stood out to you. If necessary (and it usually is) ask for and receive God’s forgiveness for things you’ve done or left undone during the day.
· Plan ahead to the next day. What situations will you handle differently? How will you seek to be open to God’s agenda in your life?
The Examen can take some getting used to, but by making it a regular pattern of prayer, we can gain real insight into ourselves and our desires, and come to more fully integrate our friendship with Jesus into every aspect of our life.