Lent is the perfect time to slow down. To take a retreat. Perhaps by the sea.
And then there’s reality. For most of us, despite this holy time in our church’s calendar, our obligations have remained the same, rendering us just as busy as usual.
And yet, the call to deepen our relationship with Christ during Lent remains. How are we to prepare for Easter properly and repent of our sinful ways, when time is not on our side? One way is to cultivate a stronger awareness of God working in our lives in our everyday circumstances, even our busyness.
Also important is cultivating awareness of the times within our daily lives that we are apart from God. What temptations, distractions, people, or circumstances have the tendency to lead us away from Christ?
The daily Examen is a method of prayer that does just that. St. Ignatius of Loyola believed the Examen was a direct gift from God. It doesn’t require several hours of your time. A few minutes every evening during the remainder of Lent could help us detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. It can expose areas of temptation we continuously fall into.
Praying the Examen consists of following these five steps:
Begin by thanking God for everything you are grateful for today. Recall what blessings the Lord gave you throughout the day, whether big or small. An example of something small is no traffic on your morning commute. Or something large, like a bonus in your pay.
Ask for the Spirit.
Next, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal ways throughout the day when you failed to act Christ-like.
Review and recognize failures.
Consider the ways you failed to be Christ-like during the day.
Ask for forgiveness and healing.
If you’ve sinned, ask God for forgiveness. If you’ve simply made a mistake, ask God for healing from any possible harm done. Ask for the wisdom to handle similar situations better in the future.
Pray about the next day.
Lastly, ask God to instruct and lead you tomorrow. If you know what events, people and circumstances you will encounter, you might pray that God helps you during potential difficulties you foresee. Ask God to help you avoid falling prey to the same temptations tomorrow that you fell for today.
The five steps can be more easily remembered by using a “5-Rs” mnemonic:
- Relish the moments that went well and all the gifts I have today.
- Request the Spirit to lead me through my review of the day.
- Review the day.
- Repent of any mistakes or failures.
- Resolve, in concrete ways, to live tomorrow well.
Let’s pray this Lent for a greater awareness of God’s presence in our life despite our busyness. Pray that the Holy Spirit shows us those weaknesses that lead us away from Christ, and where we are being led. And if it happens to be a retreat by the sea, so be it.
St. Augustine said, “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of the mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
Kim Griffin, a writer in Philadelphia, recommends a helpful tool for using the Examen. “The Examen Journal: Finding God Every Day” is available on Amazon.com.
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