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/

Christ the Enemy of Death

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 17.18
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Colossians 4.3
Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15.26
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Reflection: Christ the Enemy of Death
By John Tillman

God’s plan may refer to the unchanging will of God that cannot, due to God’s sovereignty and purpose, be overturned. This is true of God’s eternal purpose for humanity to live eternally in peace with God. Eden was an expression of this plan, and the new earth to come, will be the completion of this unchangeable and inevitable sovereign plan of God. 

God’s plan can also refer to God’s direction for a specific situation. God’s direction to Elijah to stay with the Sidonian widow is an example of this. This granular and finite definition of “God’s plan” is not equivalent to God’s eternal, sovereign purposes.

Elijah assumes, and we often do as well, that God dictates every death as part of his plan. However, God consistently shows through scripture that he is death’s enemy, not death’s co-conspirator. 

God makes it clear—throughout scripture but most directly through the actions of Christ—that death itself is not part of his “plan.” 

Death is used in God’s plans in the same way God uses many evil and wicked things, diverting evil purposes for righteous purposes. God uses the death of wicked individuals in his working of justice. God uses suffering caused by death to conform us to the image of Christ. God tenderly cares for his people during the suffering of death, as a part of his loving-kindness. In many situations in the Old Testament and the New, God reverses death, resuscitating death’s victims in miraculous ways.

We can be comforted knowing God hates death. He hates the long, slow death of old age. He hates the crippling, painful death of cancer and other wasting diseases. He hates the sudden and tragic deaths of the young. He hates death that rides on the heels of war, conflict, violence, injustice, and abuses of power.  

Death is God’s enemy because it harms and hurts his children. Death is an evil attempt by Satan to violate God’s eternal plans and purposes. God is, from chapter three of Genesis, working his will against death, advancing his purpose to destroy death, and preparing his people to overcome death.  

Part of the mystery of Christ that Paul refers to is he confronts, on our behalf, our greatest enemies—sin and death. He has defeated them both on the cross and the Holy Spirit, our comforter today, is our guarantee that victory over sin and death will ultimately be ours.

Christ is the deadly enemy of death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave. — Psalm 30.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 17 (Listen – 3:14)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about The Gospel is an Uprising
The Anastasis—the Uprising—is…a visualization of Christ’s resurrection gleaned less from gospel accounts than from multiple sources throughout scripture.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Colossians 1.18
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Reflection: Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

What I often call “preacher stories” are stories, illustrations, and parables about modern faith that have been passed on and told in many versions by many preachers in many sermons.

One of my favorite “preacher stories” is about a new preacher at a church who keeps preaching the same sermon every Sunday. Eventually a church leader questions the pastor about it and requests a new topic for the following Sunday. The preacher responds, “When you start acting like you remember the first one, I can stop repeating it”

We all need repetition in our spiritual lives to reinforce the greatest truths of our faith. One of those truths is the supremacy of Christ. The supremacy of Christ may seem unassailable. How could we forget it? We all nod our heads and “amen” in agreement…

Yet in our actions and in our lives, we find many ways to place things before Christ. People, issues, politics, career—these things all push to the front of our minds and demand our supreme attention and commitment.

Pray this prayer over the weekend, and repeat as needed to proclaim in faith the supremacy of Christ over all in your life and subjugate everything else to him.

Christ’s Supremacy
We pray to Christ and proclaim his supremacy…

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…

Nothing we create can displace Christ.
No government can cast him out, for they exist within his creation.
No discovery can reveal anything that Christ did not create.
No achievement or success can accomplish more than Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf.

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased…through him to reconcile to himself all things…making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

We confess to you our pride, our naked greed, our self-deception, our poverty of principles and possessions.

In humility, Christ, we accept from you…
Peace we are incapable of procuring,
Redemption beyond our means to purchase,
Rescue from darkness of our own making.

Help us to let go of anything which strives to take your place.
Make of us a body that serves, be our head which gives us purpose.
May we continue in faith…

…established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. — Psalm 108.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:22)
Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 15 (Listen – 5:30), Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)
1 Kings 16 (Listen – 5:31), Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Solus Christus
There has never been and will never be a clearer portrait of God than the person of Jesus himself.

Read more about Downgrading Grace
When we downgrade grace through faith, we chip away the cross of Christ, making it an additive to our life rather than the sole source of our life.

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