We started a sermon series on prayer last Sunday, and while we explore prayer over these next several weeks, it is useful to have an immediate format to use for praying. This allows us to start right away, no matter how little we know about prayer, because the true way to learn how to pray is to pray.
I offered the Examen as an excellent foundation to use for prayer, no matter how long you have been praying. People have found this time-tested manner of prayer useful for centuries.
Many have taken the Examen and made it contemporary or made it fit their setting, and I have found it useful to do the same. I encourage you to take these steps and use them as they are if they make sense and fit your need, but also to tweak them if that helps you.
Step 1: Experience
Step 1 of the Examen is to become aware of God’s presence, to get our hands on his presence, to realize and grasp his nearness to us.
While “acknowledgement” can refer to turning our attention to God’s presence, I find the word experience much more clarifying for me.
I can acknowledge God’s nearness to me and yet never experience it in a very real sense.
Experience calls me to tune into God all around me and within me.
Sometimes I may experience his presence cognitively as I think on his sun shining on me, his rain falling on me, his air running in and out of my lungs, etc.
Other times I may experience his presence through emotions and feelings as I sense him comforting me, loving me, encouraging me, etc.
And most times will probably be a blend of the two.
However it looks, this step is an intentional redirection of our focus to experience a moment of encounter with the presence of God — a presence that life can otherwise work to distract us from.
This encounter experience ensures that the next steps we will take in the Examen prayer are grounded from true reality: me, immediately near to the one I image, not distant or forsaken, but forever loved by God.
It can sound a bit mystical, but it rightly sounds that way. It is mystical as the natural experiences connection with the supernatural. And such a connection cannot be anything but mystical–outside of our understanding.
So here is the first step. If you wish, you can jump into the Examen right now with simply quick moments touching God’s presence through your day. Take 60 seconds now and then through your day to experience him in the sunrise, in the loving smile of a friend or spouse, in the amazing taste of his creation found in an excellent cup of coffee or tea. Wherever you encounter his presence, take moments to do so, meet with God.
Begin this practice, and we will move to step 2 next week.