Ps. 4:2: Answer when I call, my saving God. In my troubles, you cleared a way; show me favor; hear my prayer.
Ps. 5:2-3: Hear my words, O Lord; listen to my sighing. Hear my cry for help, my king, my God!
Ps .16:11: You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Ps. 17:6: I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; Incline your ear to me, hear my words.
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Regardless of style, prayer is always to be holistic, involving the mind, heart and hands. It is also to be inclusive, in that prayer embraces all of creation as we attempt to respond to a God who continually blesses us and calls us to full maturity.*
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Prayer takes on many forms–vocal, contemplative, communal, individual, liturgical, musical. Within each form there are many varieties of prayer. Essentially prayer is a journey of discovery–of God, nature, ourselves and our fellow human beings. At any given moment in our life, we may use a different form of prayer. When I am anxious, I may be calling out to God asking him to relieve me of my anxious thoughts. I may move into a form of contemplative prayer to calm my anxious mind and focus on all the goodness that flows into my life through the abundant goodness of God. I may pray for others and with others.
In this journey of life we all pack a variety of tools to help us navigate the winding roads, superhighways, barely visible trails and practically impassible mountain passes we encounter. Those “prayer tools” allow us to discover more about ourselves and our God who loves us.
Take a moment as you read this blog and think about the prayer tools you have packed for your journey. What do you turn to mostly? One means of prayer which I find very beneficial is the “Ignation Examen.”** It’s a beautiful means to remain in the presence of God on this journey of life. Here is just a brief description of the examen, and I encourage you to use it in your time of prayer and see how it allows you to be more mindful of God’s presence on your daily journey of discovery and more mindful of the many indescribable ways God accompanies us on our journey.
More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us.
- Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
- Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
- Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings? God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to them in some way.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
- Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.
St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. End the Daily Examen with the Our Father.**
God be with each of us on our prayer journey.
*Robert F. Morneau, Paths to Prayer, Cincinnati, OH, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998.