Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The prayer that changes everything

One of the main tenets of the Year of Faith is enriching our prayer lives. On this feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, writer Jim Manney has an excellent suggestion: pray St. Ignatius' Examen daily:

Read more about the Examen
A few years ago I started to pray using the Examen of St. Ignatius Loyola. Everything changed for me. Prayer took on a new, refreshing character. I became an evangelist for the Examen.
I buttonholed friends, wrote blog posts and a book, and recorded guided Examens on the Internet. I did everything I could to spread the news about this way of praying.

All of this almost didn’t happen. For years I had occasionally heard people talk about the Examen as a good way to pray. But I wasn’t interested, because I thought they were talking about the examination of conscience. 

This is the inventory of sins that I was taught to do as a boy in Catholic schools in the 1960s. The examination of conscience is very useful, but I never liked it very much. I certainly didn’t think of it as “prayer,” in the sense of a practice that would help me connect with God. When people talked about the Examen, this is what I thought they meant. I wasn’t interested.

Then I learned that the Examen is not the old examination of conscience. Quite the opposite. The Examen is a prayer that focuses on God’s presence in the real world. It looks to a God who is near, present in my world, and active in my life. It told me to approach prayer with gratitude, not guilt. It helped me find God in my life as I lived it, not in some heavenly realm beyond space and time. The Examen had me take myself seriously, as I am, not as I wished I was or thought

I could be someday if I worked hard enough.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Examen changed everything. It might change things for you, too.

God in everyday events 

There’s nothing complicated or mysterious about making the Examen part of your life. The subject matter of the Examen is your life — specifically the day you have just lived through. The Examen looks for signs of God’s presence in the events of the day — lunch with a friend, a walk in the park, a kind word from a colleague, a challenge met, a duty discharged. The Examen likes the humdrum. God is present in transcendent “spiritual” moments, but he’s also there when you cook dinner, write a memo, answer email and run errands.

The Examen looks at your conscious experience. The ebb and flow of your moods and feelings are full of spiritual meaning. Nothing is so trivial that it’s meaningless. What do you think about while sitting in traffic or waiting in a long line at the grocery store? What’s your frame of mind while doing boring and repetitive chores? You’ll be surprised at how significant such moments can be when you really look at them.

I was surprised. But then, on reflection, the Examen made intuitive sense. I am God’s creature living in God’s world; of course, God would be present in my everyday experience. If prayer is making a connection with God, it makes perfect sense to spend some time finding God in my conscious experience of daily life.  Read the entire article here on

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