Last week, we began our series entitled, “Drained.” We’ve all experienced that feeling of having nothing left in the tank; yet, there is a way toward recovery. Ironically, our recovery from being spiritually drained is not based on our efforts but God’s efforts. Recovery of the spiritual life happens when we connect with the Spirit. While we can’t manufacture or produce this connection, we can do things which lead us into the presence of God. We call these the means of grace, or the ways of grace. The means are gracious gifts of God given to us so we can utilize them in growing in our connection with the Spirit. As I mentioned in my sermon, we could think of them, paraphrasing Ignatius of Antioch, as the “medicine of immortality.”
However, I must admit, I can become lax in my practice of the means of grace. One of the reasons is I can often feel aimless in my pursuit. For instance, when it comes to reading Scripture, I will just pick a passage to read in the Bible but often get little from it. This point and read method is not productive for me. I often get sidetracked or confused. Thus, what I’ve discovered personally is I need structure. I need a list of readings which guide me in a particular direction, or a prayer structure which keeps me focused.
One of the guides I use in my prayer life is known as the “Examen.” It was originally developed by a Monk named Ignatius of Loyola. The Examen is a five-step prayer of examination of one’s day. It helps a person recognize God’s presence in one’s life and to see where we can continue to improve.
Briefly, the steps include:
1. Place yourself in God’s presence. Give thanks for God’s great love for you.
2. Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.
3. Review your day – recall specific moments and your feelings at the time.
4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to God, or further away?
5. Look toward tomorrow – think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God’s plan. Be specific, and conclude with the “Our Father.”
I find it refreshing and insightful. So, if you feel at times you struggle to use the means; I offer the Examen to you as a helpful, structured tool to help you connect with the Spirit! If you want to learn more or go deeper with the prayer, copy or click on the link below!