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G.P.S. > a prayer tool

July 5, 2011

I’ve been inspired by the Jesuits to add an examen prayer to my daily regimen. But I also tweaked it a bit and added some other bits of wisdom collected from other sources as well.


First a summary. It involves 3 simple steps of reflecting on goodness, progress, and setbacks over a day or part of a day as i sometimes try to use it as Ignatius recommended for examen upon rising, at noon and at the end of a day.


Part 1: Gratitude for goodness


Think back over your day and see if there are clearly places where God was at work. The evidence for this would be signs of goodness, beauty or truth – what philosophers call the “transcendentals.” Offer prayers of thanks for these signs of God that punctuate your day with light. Write them down if you keep a journal or just list them in your mind. The point is to feel and express gratitude for God’s manifest presence. Some categories to get you going might be nature – the wonder of the natural order of sky, trees, birds, and flowers- and relationships -conversations, contact with friends or family. Gratitude will naturally lead you to having a sense of confidence that God is working in your life and the world around you.


Part 2: Progress


Next, spend a few minutes reflecting on progress you’ve made on goals – assuming you have some. This can be anything from a project you are working on to a personal trait you are trying to develop like patience or love to an idea you had that will help you further a long held dream. Maybe there is some specific habit you are working to acquire and you want to note some progress however small. I’ve heard that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. Perhaps you want to develop a habit for something simple but potentially life changing like eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and noting that you were able to do this during the day. That’s progress! Note it. Celebrate it. (And do it for 20 more days and you got it!)


Part 3: Setbacks


Finally we end with repentance for any area that you failed or fumbled in your attempt to love God and love others. We don’t need to beat ourselves up though. This is for our learning and formation! We ask forgiveness and then make plans to do better. (I John 1.9) We envision doing better at the next opportunity. We listen to our conscience and see if it is clear. We listen for the still small voice of the Spirit and see if God shines light on an area we might not have realized.


Bonus: Sometimes ending on setbacks can seem pretty negative. It can be good to complete the loop and return to gratitude by writing an encouraging note or expressing thanks to someone who crossed your path during the day and was an agent of God’s presence – whether they knew it or not!

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