I find ‘Spiritual Direction’ vital to my ministry, indeed I feel that anyone who is serious about their relationship with God, should have the opportunity to reflect, and ponder how to deepen it with a Spiritual companion/accompanist /director (depending on which word your feel most comfortable to use).
Many years ago I used Ignatian Spirituality help me focus on my prayer life, and my director at the time advised me to use the EXAMEN, an aspect that I still use to this day. I hope you will find it a useful response to help you as we all journey through life with the Living God
St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) is the founder of the Jesuits. He used prayer as a means of centring on God. More than any other prayer, The EXAMEN is the central prayer of St Ignatius. It is a prayer of looking back. It is not just reflecting on what has gone wrong, but a wider look at what has happened during my day – the good things and the bad things – trying to see where God has been moving. The Examen is best used regularly. Most people find it helpful in the quiet time before going to sleep. It takes about 15 min.
The prayer covers five points.
- No matter what I am worrying about ….STOP! God is with me – quiet perhaps, but always there. I remember that God has created all things. All I have is a gift from God. Is there something I would especially like to give thanks for today?
- I ask God to shine his light into my heart so that when I look back over the day I may be able to see God working in the things that have happened.
- Now I remember through the day starting from when I woke up. I remember the people I met and the things that have happened.
– On the whole , was is it a “Good” or a “Bad” day
– Was it a normal day, or unusual in some way?
– Whom did I meet during the day?
– Was there something surprising? …A long lost friend …or and awkward old enemy?
– Does something special come to mind :…a beautiful sunset…something I was told….something on TV.
God guides us through our moods and feelings. Normally God’s way is (in a deep sense) peaceful and consoling. If your day was disturbed or if you were uneasy, can you sense where the uneasiness was coming from?
Like a sailor buffeted by different winds, we are affected by many different feelings. The better we come to know these swirling breezes, the easier it is to see the perhaps subtle movements of God in our lives.
- An important question to ask is: What can I be proud of today? (there will be things . If you can’t think of anything then you haven’t looked hard enough!)
– I will give thanks for this.
– But also, did I turn away from God during the day? Maybe I turned a blind eye when it suited me ? Did I recognise God in that homeless woman, that annoying child or that spiteful old man?
– I will say a prayer asking for forgiveness for anything I may have done to ignore or hinder God’s love during this past day. will ask especially for the graces of healing and strength.
- The final part of the prayer is to look forward to tomorrow. We are people of hope. Let us remember that God will be with us then.
The Examen is a prayer which helps us become aware of the presence of a loving God, and helps us move into a position where we can look more closely at how God has been moving and working in our life.
The focus the prayer is God – in the case of the Examen, God may appear to have been deeply hidden (or in heavy disguise perhaps) but God has been there nonetheless. Our task is to simply notice.
Teach us, good Lord,
To serve thee as thou deservest,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to ask for any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do Thy will.
St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)