It's been years since I started keeping a journal. Though I don't write on a daily basis, I can still look back at my journals and recall significant events in my life. I have written various notes, including ones that do not make sense, prayers, poems, and reflections and even just a recount of a day's events. When I open my journal, I can't help but thank God to where he brought me thus far. It's always a good thing to examine a life and learn from mistakes and plan for the future.
The Prayer of Examen
This prayer practice allows you to look back through your day or your entire life, or through your ministry program. It leads you to a time of evaluation and at the same time discernment. While praying, the pray-er will be able to pay attention to his/her emotions and become aware of God's presence throughout the day. It was established by Saint Ignatius.
More often than not, when I embark in the prayer of examen, I use John Wesley's self examination questions. The Holy Club used these questions during their Wednesday meetings to check on each other's devotion to God.
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
- Can I be trusted?
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
- Do I pray about the money I spend?
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
- Do I disobey God in anything?
- Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
- Am I defeated in any part of my life?
- Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
- How do I spend my spare time?
- Am I proud?
- Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
- Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
- Do I grumble or complain constantly?
- Is Christ real to me?
From Creating a Life with God by Daniel Wolpert, here is a step-by-step guide to prayer of examen.
- Choose a period of time to examine in prayer. This can be a day, a week, or a specific event.
- Allow your mind to wander through that period of time. Some questions you might ask yourself about that period include:
- When am I most/least grateful for during that time?
- When did I feel a sense of love, peace, joy, life (the gifts of the Spirit)?
- When did I feel exhausted, dead, drained, angry, mean?
- What specific events, thoughts, or experiences, draw my attention?
- What aspects of that time repel me?
- What moments from that time speak to me of my deeper desires?
- What things feel out of place, uninteresting?
- Ask yourself, When did I notice God during this time? What felt like a time of God's absence?
- As some answers to these questions arise, notice what this tells you about the future. How is it that God is calling you into being? Toward what actions, activities, or attributws is God drawing you?
- Repeat this prayer at regular intervals in order to see how God is working in your life.