For more than a decade now, I have been using the same prayer practice to begin my days. Perhaps to the disappointment of Anglican purists across the globe, I have opted for something other than The Daily Office as my most regular prayer practice. Instead, I have used a practice that originated with St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits called The Daily Examen. The practice, in its shape, is rather simple, but Ignatius cemented the practice as the practice that could not be skipped – even more important than praying the hours of the day.
The shape of the prayer looks like this:
Presence – Shift your presence to God and ask God to be present to you.
Thankfulness – Call to mind something for which you are thankful
Review – Take a few moments to review the day. Call to moments you felt God was present and moments you felt God was absent. Pay attention to feelings as they surface.
Scripture – Read one or more lessons of Scripture for the day
Commit – Have a conversation with God about what you are feeling. Commit to walking through the next day with a deeper sense of God’s presence.
The Lord’s Prayer and/or The Doxology – Conclude your prayers
The helpful thing about the Examen is that it is possible to do the Examen in almost any place and almost at any time. It is easily prayed at midday if you only have a few minutes but also feel that re-centering your day in God’s goodness would be a wise thing to do at the halfway point of your day. It is a prayer that might be quite brief on some days and quite lengthy on others. It is also a prayer that invites us to enter into relationship with God – not simply to speak to God but also to open our souls up enough that we are able to listen to God too.
One tool that I use throughout the year to pray the Examen is called Sacred Space, and this week, I happened upon a short paragraph that feel quite fitting for the season of Lent. It reads, “St. Ignatius thought that a thick and shapeless tree trunk would never believe that it could become a statue, admired as a miracle of sculpture, and would never submit itself to the chisel fo the sculptor who sees by her genius what she can make of it. I ask for the grace to let myself be shaped by my loving Creator.”
I prayed that prayer every day this week, and it seems fitting to be praying for the grace to commend ourselves – the whole of our being – into God’s loving hands to be sculpted by grace and lovingkindness. It is a prayer that invites vulnerability with God because I have to have faith that God, like the sculptor, sees amazing things within me and will work within me something greater than I can ask or imagine. Of course, it is over the course of a human lifetime that we learn how to commend the self into God’s loving hands and to live according to God’s grace. It is a prayer that asks me to allow God to be the prime mover in my world. I am invited to know God’s love even more intimately than I do the moment I began the prayer.
The Lenten season is not simply a time for us to recall those places that are asking for God’s forgiveness. It is also a season for us to ask for God’s grace to create a new thing within us. It is a season that begs for us to be vulnerable to God’s love so we, like Christ, can share the Good News with those who far and those who are near.
God sees a wonderfully beautiful creation within each one of us. How is God inviting you to commend yourself into God’s lovingkindness this Lent?