Galatians 5:22-23 gives us a beautiful picture of the fruit of the Spirit being produced in our lives. Like apples on a tree – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control naturally flow from us. It’s such a stirring image that we often stop there. However, if we read on, we see that we have a part to play in bearing fruit. Verses 24-25 tell us that we are to live as people who belong to Christ, crucifying the flesh and keeping in step with the Spirit.
How do I do that? How do I live from my identity as the beloved of God? How do I resist temptations that dehumanize, devalue, and destroy? How do I pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s activity in my life?
About 500 years ago, St. Ignatius of Loyola developed The Examen as a practice to help Christians to do just that.
The Examen helps us become more self-aware and aware of the presence of Christ in our daily lives—even during a hectic and demanding workday. Or as L. Roger Owens says in his book Everyday Contemplative, “The more we practice attending to God retrospectively, the better we become at attending to God in the moment.”
This daily, prayerful exercise will expose where we are and are not living in step with the Holy Spirit, enable us to more deeply experience the gospel of Jesus, and ultimately close the gaps between our theological beliefs and living moment by moment in His presence.
OPENING PRAYER OF INVITATION (2 minutes)
- Sit comfortably in stillness for these minutes.
- Be reminded that God is drawing you to Himself in a unique and intimate way.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you through this prayer.
- Offer your mind, heart, and will to the presence of God.
REVIEW THE DAY (3 minutes)
- Jot down a basic chronology of the day.
- What particular event, meeting, conversation, or place stands out to you? In the rush of our days, it is easy to overlook so much. Think about the things you saw, felt, and did. Remember that God is even in these details.
NOTICE YOUR EMOTIONS (3 minutes)
- As you review some of the events that stand out, reflect on the feelings you experienced.
- What emotions did you experience? Happiness? Anger? Fear? Etc. Our emotions were created by God and often express what’s inside our hearts. If we are not aware of what is at the root of our emotions, they can become (or remain) disconnected from our identity in Christ, and our idols can gain strength and power.
CHOOSE ONE FEATURE OF THE DAY AND EXAMINE IT (5 minutes)
- As you examine the events and your emotions, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to something that God wants you to pay more attention to. This can be something obvious or unexpected. It can be positive or negative.
- Pray for this particular thing. How does God want you to respond? How is he affirming you or leading you to change? Are you stirred to make a confession, offer gratitude, or take action?
CLOSING PRAYER: LOOKING TOWARDS TOMORROW (2 minutes)
- Remember that God patiently leads us: He responds to our weakness with tenderness.
- How might you apply what you learned today into tomorrow? How can you celebrate God and the triumph of His grace?
- What action can you take tomorrow as an expression of trust and dependence on God?
- Ask that you would be more aware of God’s guiding presence tomorrow.
The Examen is suggested as an evening practice. I’d challenge you to do it at least five out of the next seven days and pay attention to what happens in you and around you.