Light and Darkness: An Examination
In the 16th century St. Ignatius of Loyola came up with a method of prayer called the daily examen. It is a tool that can train us to pay attention to our desires and feelings so that we can learn to want what Jesus wants for us. The Examen highlights moments of “Consolation and Desolation” or times where we feel deep peace and the presence of God, and moments where we may feel empty and unfulfilled, or like God is far from us. These moments can be far deeper (and more personal) than the highs and lows that we might disclose in a small group, though they share a similar structure. In calling to mind these moments, we are able to pray over them and offer them up to God, trusting that He is with us.
Praying the Examen
Find a quiet spot. Take a pen and paper with you if it helps you to focus, and think over the past week. This works best if you set aside 10-15 minutes (or more) so that you can have time to dig below the thoughts that immediately come to the surface.
Ask God to guide you as you reflect and pray. Tell Him what you are thankful for.
When did you feel an absence of peace, love, joy, or hope? What might have contributed to your feelings of anxiety, sorrow, and pain? Have you hurt someone? Has someone hurt you?
Bring these feelings to God. Ask for forgiveness where it is needed. Know that He carries this pain with you and has promised, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Where did you feel at peace, loving, joyful, or hopeful today? What about in the past week? In what ways do you see evidences of God’s presence and goodness in your life through those moments?
Thank God for these moments, and take time to rejoice in the good gifts of this season.
Ask God to guide you in the rest of your day, in the next day, the next week. Is there anything you feel prompted to do? Anyone you need to talk to?