The Gospel shows us God loves us just the way we are, but loves us too much to leave us that way. Jesus invites us to be transformed from the inside out. The journey of transformation is lived in daily practices that form us over time. These practices, also known as spiritual disciplines, are habits that shape our hearts and keep us connected to God’s grace as we follow Jesus’ example. Below you will find some help to get you started with practicing the ways of Jesus.
Become aware of God’s presence.
Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
Review the day with gratitude.
Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
Pay attention to your emotions.
Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings? God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.
Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
Look toward tomorrow.
Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.
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If you want to explore the Prayer of Examen further, check out this great resource.
Silent Preparation (Silencio)
Begin with a time of silent preparation which allows you to become quiet in God’s presence and touch your desire to hear from God. Sit with your eyes closed, let your body relax, breathe deeply, and become consciously aware of God’s presence. You may want to express your willingness to hear from God by praying a simple prayer such as “Come Lord Jesus,” “Here I am, Lord,” or anything else that helps you.
Read the passage twice out loud and listen for the word or phrase that strikes you. This might be a word that stands out from all the rest, causes a visceral reaction, or brings about a deep sense of resonance or resistance. The mood is gentle, reflective, with a sense of expectancy that God will speak to you. After reading, pause for a brief period of silence (one minute) and remain with the word, savoring it and perhaps repeating the word or phrase softly, without trying to figure out what it means or why it was given.
Read the passage again, and this time reflect on the way in which your life is touched by this word. What in your life needed to hear this word today? If your chosen passage is a story, ask “where am I in this text? What do I experience as I allow myself to be in this story?” Sit silently and stay present with God with whatever comes. Rather than thinking too much about the passage, keep coming back to the word or phrase that has been given.
Read the passage again and listen for an invitation or a challenge for you to respond to. What is your first response? Perhaps Scripture has touched a place of pain, frustration, or anger. Perhaps there is a flash of self-knowledge, and you are convicted of some sin. Or you might be overwhelmed by some way in which God tells you that He loves you. Perhaps you hear God calling you to something new. Pour out your feelings in the safety of this moment. Whatever your response, let it find full expression in the moments of silence that follow.
Read the passage one final time and simply rest in God. Like the weaned child in Psalm 131 who has received what it needs from its mother and can now rest with her in peace and quiet, so rest with God and simply enjoy His presence. Part of what enables us to rest is the assurance that God is the One who will enable us to do what He is inviting us to do. In the silence that follows this final reading, rest in what you have heard.
Adapted from Life Together in Christ By Ruth Haley Barton