Examine the Examen

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 21.1.2
In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
    that he channels toward all who please him.
A person may think their own ways are right,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.

Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Reflection: Examine the Examen
By John Tillman

The Examen is not a prayer to change your prayer life but to change the rest of your life. The Prayer of Examen, first recorded by St. Ignatius, is a prayer that has been used throughout the Church since the 16th century. The Examen, like a good tutor, schools us in practicing the presence of God.

In this prayer, we reflect on our day, find God in the midst of everyday life, assess our motives, desires, struggles, and opportunities, and move forward into the future with repentance, faith, thankfulness, and joy.

There are many versions of the Examen. We have, over the years, published and used different versions of the prayer ourselves, including the version at this link. I have studied and used versions of the prayer from different writers and my own church pastors and find each iteration to be helpful. The Examen can be customized to fit the way you communicate with God, the time you give to it, and how you implement it and get it in your memory. The simplest, shortest way to summarize the Examen may be the following five words: 
Awareness
Analysis
Admission
Acceptance
Anticipation

Below, let us follow a version of the Examen specifically adapted to the realities of life in a time of quarantine and social distancing.

Awareness:
Take a few moments to relax and release your mind from any concerns that you are holding on to. Just pause. Realize you are in God’s presence and have been continually. Even alone in your home (or surrounded and crowded by your sequestered family…), he is in our midst.

Once settled peacefully, thank God for his presence and ask for his grace to be more aware of him, especially in the next few minutes.

Analysis:
Review the past day and God’s presence with you. We may be socially distant from our friends and community, but God is not distant. When did you sense him? What opportunities did you take to interact with or act on behalf of Jesus? 

Celebrate moments in which Christ’s grace, love, and righteousness shone through you. Humbly acknowledge that these moments were empowered by the Holy Spirit and not yourself. 

Admission:
You will also recall shortcomings and failures. Confess sins with the knowledge that Jesus has forgiven you. Confess not just actions of sin, but motivations behind them. (Not just that you shouted in anger but that you have an unhealthy desire for dominance and control rooted in a failure to trust God…)

Acceptance:
Celebrate your forgiveness, reinstatement, and acceptance through Jesus. The good news, the gospel, is that although we fail consistently, in Christ, we are loved, accepted, and forgiven continually and that Christ is at work in and through us for our sanctification and perfection.

Anticipate:
Look forward to tomorrow, with faith and anticipation of the presence of Christ going before you and being with you.

Ask for grace to be more aware of his presence with you going forward, and close with the Lord’s prayer or another prayer chosen from scripture.

Our Father in Heaven, holy is your name.
Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness,… make your way straight before me. — Psalm 5.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 21 (Listen 3:12) 
Colossians 4 (Listen -2:21)

Read more about Presence is Precious
The presence of God is a precious thing…Moses tells God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us…”

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/presence-is-precious/

Read more about Recalling the Failures
Christ sees more failure in us than even we know, yet he re-calls us—he calls us to himself again, and again, and again. Christ re-calls the failures.

Presence is Precious

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 20.24
A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

Colossians 3.15-17
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Reflection: Presence is Precious
By John Tillman

In Tuesday’s post, we referred to “breath prayers” as preparing us for the “next discipline.” While we want to make clear that we don’t feel there is a hierarchy of disciplines, with one “better” than another, some of them do tend to lead to learning another. In that sense, a “next discipline” that naturally flows from breath prayers would be “practicing the presence of God.” 

That doesn’t mean it is easy or automatic. Practicing the presence of God doesn’t have a catchy name or an easy path to mastering it, but walking this path leads to a spiritual awareness and purposeful pattern of living, embodied prayer that transforms first the believer, then our world around us.

The presence of God is a precious thing in the pages of scripture. It was shown in a pillar of cloud and fire. It settled over a tent of meeting to speak to Moses. The presence of God does not mean we are sinless or perfect. Moses sinned. Aaron sinned. Joshua sinned. The presence of God is a gift of grace made available to those who seek it, recognizing it as the precious thing that it is. 

Moses, in the tent of meeting, tells God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here…What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33.15-16) The presence of God distinguishes us as his people.

When we practice the presence of God, we are acknowledging that God no longer tabernacles in one tent to serve an unruly group of twelve clans. He no longer makes his home in a golden Temple to bless the rule of one nation. When we practice the presence of God we are resting and celebrating in the astounding truth that God’s Holy Spirit which filled Solomon’s Temple, now fills us. We are confessing that the Holy Spirit that fell on sinful Moses, sinful Samson, and sinful Saul, falls and dwells now upon us.

Practicing the presence of God means living as a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, making everywhere you set your feet holy ground. Whatever you do, do in his name, and if you cannot do it in his name, do not do it. Whatever you say, say in his name and if you cannot say it in his name, do not say it.

Tomorrow we will look at one of the practical tools of prayer that can help us to carry with us our own “tent of meeting.” We can carry God’s presence into every Zoom conference and Facetime with friends. And once social distancing is in the history books, we can carry God’s presence into the world as we have been commanded.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name. — Psalm 86.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 20 (Listen 3:19) 
Colossians 3 (Listen -3:09)

Read more about God Who Speaks
Christ makes his appeal to the world through us, so let us be appealing in the way we serve and in the way we speak.

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Repeating these prayers throughout one’s day keeps one’s mind connected to Christ, keeps one’s steps closer to his will, and readys one’s heart…

Mustard Seed Prayers

Scripture Focus: Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Ephesians 6.18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4.6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Reflection: Mustard Seed Prayer
By John Tillman (Prayer by Melissa Tillman)

There are some things which electronics cannot improve—some systems in which analog beats digital. Our previous car had no power-anything. Locks, windows, and seats all had to be moved manually. When it comes to the seats, my wife and I miss the manual adjustment. One swift movement— kachunk—was all it took for us to switch drivers. With the powered seat, we have to wait, listening to the electronic motor whirr. For me, this also involves cramming myself uncomfortably into the tiny space and waiting as it slowly expands. Even though it is only for a few seconds, we are accustomed to instantly moving from one to the other, and that makes it an annoying inconvenience. Power seats are an annoying waste of time.

Into this new crack of “waiting,” my wife injected the tiny seed of a prayer, similar to a breath prayer. At first, it was just to keep herself from being cranky about the powered seat—something similar to, “Keep me safe.” But it grew. It became a prayer that supported us through great difficulty and motivated us in tough decisions. We prayed the prayer at funerals, at weddings, when donating to causes, and when beginning difficult experiences. Soon it became a living prayer for our family. Many families have a “life verse,” but this became a “life prayer.”

“Lord, please keep us safe, keep us sane, help us focus.
Let our time, money, and energy 
Cover all that we need to do 
And all those we want to bless.”

Into any uncomfortable time of waiting, such as the one we are all in now, inject prayer. It is okay if it is not fancily worded. It is okay if it is selfish. It is okay if it is just a request. But don’t let it be just a stale repetition. Let it be like a seed that can grow. 

As God speaks to you, adjust your prayer. As new needs arise, adjust your prayer. As better wording occurs to you, adjust your prayer. Allow your prayer to be shaped and rewritten by your relationship with God and all that you learn and experience in God’s Word.

A prayer of a few words, thrown into an inconvenient crack in your life, can grow like a mustard seed into a towering tree that can provide spiritual shelter and sustenance for you and others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;
Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save his life from those who would condemn him. — Psalm 109.29-30

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 19 (Listen 3:09) 
Colossians 2 (Listen -3:45)

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Out of your relationship with God, you can also write your own breath prayers.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/breathing-prayers/

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Read more about Prayer for Purpose, Community, and Freedom :: Guided Prayer
As we face a lengthening road through this crisis, we focus on prayer.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/breathing-prayers/

Breathing Prayers

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 18.14
The human spirit can endure in sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Reflection: Breathing Prayers
By John Tillman

The social, financial, and mental health costs of this sickness are pushing our culture to the end of the ability of the “human spirit” to endure. We are worn out with anxiety. We are weighed down by ballooning financial burdens. We have lost jobs and profits and we are fearful of losing family, friends, and acquaintances.

How can we possibly endure? What can keep our spirits from being crushed? One source of unending strength and endurance may come through what Richard Foster calls, “Unceasing Prayer.”

Most of us know the famous Pauline verse, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5.17). It is merely the shortest of the many New Testament directives to pray unceasingly. (Romans 12.12; Ephesians 6.18; Colossians 4.2; Philippians 4.6; Hebrews 13.15; Luke 18.1

Few Christians, however, have taken steps to put unceasing prayer into practice.

One of the simplest methods for doing this—and therefore a good place to start—is called “breath prayers.” This practice is outlined in detail in Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.

Breath prayers are simply short prayers which can be said “in a breath.” These are often taken from scripture. One famous breath prayer is adapted from Luke 18.13, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” It is called the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

You can find your own breath prayers from throughout the scripture. Any scripture that God brings to your mind is useful as a breath prayer. A deep familiarity with scripture (made possible by regular and repetitive reading) will make this a more common occurrence in one’s life.

It is perhaps a little too long to be called a breath prayer, but one scripture-based prayer that my wife and I pray regularly is based on Galatians 5:22-23. “Come Holy Spirit, we pray that your fruit would be in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Out of your relationship with God, you can also write your own breath prayers. They can come from complaints, from questions about the Bible, from sermons, from requests, or just a simple acknowledgment of need. Some examples of these may be, “God give me grace.” “God help me forgive.” “Christ, speak through me.” 

Repeating these prayers throughout one’s day keeps one’s mind connected to Christ, keeps one’s steps closer to his will, and readys one’s heart for the next discipline.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 18 (Listen 2:23) 
Colossians 1 (Listen -4:18)

Read more about Praying as Priests
As followers of God today, a part of our identity is as carriers of the blessings of God that are intended for the world.

Read more about Praying Through Betrayal and Failure
May we respond to boasts with humility, to deceit with the truth, to evil with good, and to harm with healing words of comfort and love.

Prayer for Purpose, Community, and Freedom :: Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 17.3-5
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the Lord tests the heart.
A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
    a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.
Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
    whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Philippians 4.11-12
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

From John: Hong Kong was one of the earlier cities struck by the virus and the quickest to react with measures viewed as extreme by westerners. Their response to the virus is one of the most successful in the world, yet they are approaching 70 days with schools closed and have no immediate plans to open. They are cautiously taking it week by week, partly due to a second bump in infections as people have traveled home to Hong Kong from other destinations.

In the United States, we are just settling in for this long haul. At this time, some are busier than ever. Among them are teachers, medical workers, first responders, and government officials. But also, many are experiencing a widening margin of unaccounted for time with no work to give purpose, no community activities to provide relational depth and little freedom of movement leading to a feeling of being trapped.

Reflection: Prayer for Purpose, Community, and Freedom :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

The COVID-19 crisis is far from over and normalcy is not around the corner.

As we face a lengthening road through this crisis, this week we focus on prayer. In prayer, we can meet with the God who has a purpose for us and for everything we suffer. In prayer, we can join with a worldwide community to experience being one with God, just as Jesus promised we would. In prayer, we can experience freedom from sins that chain us to mindsets of scarcity, fear, greed, apathy, selfishness, and addiction.

Let us pray over the following scriptures and prepare our hearts to deepen our practice of prayer this week.

Prayer for Purpose, Community, and Freedom:

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the Lord tests the heart.”

You are testing our hearts today, Lord. Burn out of us whatever must go to make room for more of what you wish to plant in us. 

“A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
    a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”

Deceitful and destructive speech is rampant in our world. We are addicted to it. We praise the cleverest put-downs, the harshest, destructive words, and the brusquest of manners. We are addicted to facts that are convenient to us, rather than convicting to us. 

Rebuild integrity in us. 
Renew a commitment to truth in us.

“Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
    whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.”

When times get their hardest, the hardest parts of our hearts are often shown. Keep our hearts soft and our words and actions loving toward the most vulnerable and most needy among us.

“A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” 

You have shown us, O Lord, how to be a friend. Let us willingly limit our freedoms to lovingly help our brothers and sisters in this time of adversity. May we lay down our lives for our friends.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

There do not exist circumstances in which we cannot be content, at peace, and joyful as we suffer along with our community and along with Christ who bears our burdens.

Come, Lord Jesus. Have mercy on us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 17 (Listen 2:58) 
Philippians 4 (Listen -3:20)

Read more about Confession as a Crucible
The purpose of the crucible is to cause these things to rise so that they may be removed and us purified.

Read more about The Way of Love Amidst Fear
Fear is natural and one shouldn’t be ashamed of being afraid. However, the response of a Christian must be supernatural. 

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