The Examen: A Daring Kind of Prayer

Here’s one more version of the Examen from Mark Thibodeaux’s new book, Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day. I don’t think this one will be easy; it takes some honesty and courage. I’ll try it if you will!

Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ

Examen #22
Repulsions, Inspirations, Desires

  1. I begin in my usual way.
  2. I spend a few moments in gratitude, thanking God for one or two of the blessings, big and small, that I’ve received today.
  3. Looking back on my day, I ask God to show me the moments in which I was repulsed by someone or something. To be repulsed means to feel uncontrollably driven to reject or flee from that person or thing. When did that happen today? What person did I encounter that led me to feel disgust? fear? anger? loathing? Was there some incident, task, place, discussion, or thing that drove me to want to run the other way or to react violently? I speak to God about this. I pray to God for forgiveness, advice, and healing.
  4. I look over my day a second time, asking God to reveal the moments I felt inspired to do something good or to be someone noble. Did I encounter someone today who inspired me? Did something happen today that filled me with good and holy passion and warmth? Did I see, hear, or experience something that made me feel that way? I speak to God about this. I give thanks and praise for this moment.
  5. I look at my day one last time, asking God to bring to mind the moments in which I felt filled with great desires. By great desires I mean desires to do good and holy things, and to be a good and holy person. Great desires are those God plants in my heart; they are ultimately desires for faith, hope, and love. Was there a moment today when I felt such desires, even if I wasn’t fully conscious of it at the time? Was there a moment today when I thought about the future with wholesome and loving dreams? Was there a moment when I daydreamed a future for myself filled with God’s presence and filled with faith, hope, and love? I speak to God about this. I thank and praise God for this moment. I ask God if this moment truly came from him, and I pause in silence to listen for a response. I am open and receptive to God’s response to me, whatever it is.
  6. I now review my prayer time and these three reflections of repulsions, inspirations, and desires. Of the three reflections, which one has most enlightened or moved me? I return to that moment and linger there a while. What is the primary emotion I feel as I reflect on this? I tell God about how I’m feeling right at this moment, and I listen for God’s response. I talk with God about it, or perhaps we just sit there in the blessedness of this sacred moment.
  7. Given my reflection on today, I now look to tomorrow. “Is there anything concrete that you call me to do tomorrow, Lord?” “Given my repulsions, inspirations, and desires today, who am I called to be tomorrow?”
  8. If I feel led to do so, I make some commitment to God about tomorrow. I ask God for the help to fulfill my commitment.
  9. I end in my usual way.

If you were to create your own adaptation of the Examen, what would it look like?

Reviewing Emotions with the Examen

Here’s another Examen from Mark Thibodeaux’s new book, Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day.

Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ

Examen #14
My Emotions

  1. I begin in my usual way.
  2. I spend a few moments in gratitude, thanking God for one or two of the blessings, big and small, that I’ve received today.
  3. Instead of reviewing my day hour by hour, I ask God to review my day emotion by emotion. God and I watch and observe as my emotional state progresses through the day. How did I feel when I woke up this morning? As I was showering, eating breakfast, dressing for the day? How did I feel when I began the tasks of the day? As the morning progressed? And so on. I quickly pass over the fleeting emotions but dwell on the more pervasive ones or those I hadn’t noticed before. I also speak with God as I notice shifts in my emotions throughout the day.
  4. I speak with God about the strongest emotions of the day. Were they of the good spirit—that is, the part of me that is moving closer to God and deeper in faith, hope, and love? Were they of the false spirit—the spirit in me that is stuck in earthly thoughts, desires, cravings, or obsessions?
  5. I choose the strongest emotion of the day, and I speak to God about the way I responded to that emotion as the day progressed. I review the impact this emotion had on me. Did I even acknowledge the emotion as I experienced it, or was I unaware of it? Did I consciously choose how to act on this emotion, or did I allow the emotion to choose how I would think, speak, and act throughout the day? I speak with God about this, thanking God when my response to the emotion was in sync with my Christian calling, and asking for forgiveness and healing when my response was not.
  6. Knowing that my emotions are only partially in my control, I reflect on what emotions I want to have tomorrow. If I could choose only one, what would it be: joy? peace? loving-kindness? courage? gratitude? I pick one of these and imagine myself living out tomorrow with this emotion as my companion. I ask God to grant me the grace to be open to this emotion tomorrow and to put it to good use if and when it does come.
  7. I end in my usual way.

  • Do you consider emotions aspects of your life that you can work with or not? Why or why not?
  • How might a review of the day’s emotions affect the way you deal with other parts of your life?

A Flexible Examen: So Many Ways to Review Your Life Prayerfully

Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ

It’s time to introduce some of Loyola Press’s spring books, and they fit the Days of Deepening Friendship mode very well. This week’s book is Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ.

The Examen is a classic Ignatian prayer, consisting of just a few steps to help a person prayerfully review her day, express gratitude for God’s gifts, recognize sins, failings, or struggles, and pray for the next day. What Fr. Thibodeaux does with this prayer is adapt it in 34 different ways, so that, although you are using the basic form of the prayer, you’re able to suit it to specific needs and circumstances. Here’s one example.

Examen #7
A Shift in My Spirit

You can use this particular Examen to reflect on the big picture or on the small picture. You can reflect on anything from a subtle shift in your day to a big change in your disposition over the past few years. You may want to use this Examen at moments of transition, such as the end of a semester or on New Year’s Day.

  1. I begin in my usual way. [however you usually begin prayer time]
  2. I spend a few moments in gratitude, thanking God for one or two of the blessings, big and small, that I’ve received today.
  3. Looking over the past few weeks, months, or even years, I ask God for the grace to see any shift that may have occurred in my spirit. For example, have I grown despondent lately? Have I snapped at people more frequently? Am I quieter than I used to be? Am I more at peace? Do I laugh more? Do I sleep better or worse than I used to? Have I grown confident? lazy? anxious? needy? prayerful? loving? forgiving? despairing? pessimistic? hopeful? preoccupied? fearful? relaxed? bitter? accepting? In what way have I changed?
  4. I may identify several shifts in my spirit, but I ask God to reveal to me the most influential one. I zoom in on that one. Has this been a good shift? a bad shift? or a mixed bag? I ask God to show me how this shift has played a role in my life. I ask God to show me his perspective on it. I ask God to show me how he has been present in this shift. I also ponder: In what ways has this shift not been from God?
  5. I ask for forgiveness for, and healing from, any part of this that is not from God.
  6. If this shift has had a good impact on my life, then I spend some long moments in thanksgiving: “Thank you for the growth, Lord.” “Thank you for healing this wound.” “Thank you for giving me the grace to move on.” “Thank you for letting me feel more confident in myself.”
  7. I ask God to show me what I am called to do about this shift. Should I “feed the shift,” working toward growing further in this direction? Should I “shift the shift,” working toward changing course—adjusting my attitude, changing my behavior, and so on? Is there anyone, such as my spouse or my spiritual director, whom I should speak to about this shift? What am I called to do? Who am I called to be?
  8. If I feel called to do so, I make a promise to God to do what I’m called to do, to be who I’m called to be in this area of my life.
  9. I end in my usual way. [however you usually end prayer time]

Feel free to try this Examen in the next day or two.

Friday Reflection: A Dream to Pray

God, who creates me and who loves me,
I open my thoughts to receive you.
I open my heart to welcome you.
I open my eyes to see your possibilities for me.
I open my ears to listen more attentively to my life.
I open my dreams to include wonders beyond my sight.
I open my future to your grace.
I open my struggling soul to your peace.
Amen.

An Experiment in Praydreaming

An Experiment in Praydreaming - hot air balloons

On Monday, I introduced the concept of praydreaming: allowing yourself to daydream prayerfully. Today, I’m suggesting an exercise in praydreaming. Use it as is or work with it until you can use it in a way that suits you.

1. Give yourself 15 minutes to be free of obligations or problem-solving or any other tasks. You may need to leave the building to do this—whether at home or work or elsewhere. Get away from distractions. It might be easier to do this while walking, but sit comfortably if that works better for you.

2. Say a simple prayer, such as: “God / Holy Spirit / Jesus, help me relax and allow my mind and heart to lift freely and go where they need to go. I trust you to surround this process with your love and grace. Please lead my mind and heart by means of what is naturally here: my history, my gifts, my desires, my ideas, opportunities, and inspirations.”

3. For the next 15 minutes or so, give yourself permission to daydream. Daydream about what you hope to do or where you’d like to go, what you’d love to create or who you’d like to see or talk with. Try not to think about what comes to mind. Don’t work at this but let it happen.

4. When the 15 minutes are over, if it’s helpful, take some notes about the experience. Does anything stand out? Was there a point at which you felt wonderful or at peace or stimulated or curious or hopeful? Did this praydream leave you with any concrete ideas about a step you might want to take or an idea you’d like to follow further?

5. Say a short prayer of thanks, and then resume your day.