We used to live in San Diego, California where the weather is basically 75 degrees and sunny every single day. I must admit that I didn’t fully appreciate that until we moved from San Diego to Grand Rapids….in January.
We humans are prone to taking so much for granted becoming complacent or even worse apathetic. Unfortunately, this carries over to our relationship with God. Those of us who have had the blessing of being His redeemed child for a long period of time have to be alert to the tendency to take His lavish gifts of grace for granted. We get so used to His constant presence, His love, His forgiveness, His majestic holy nature, and we fall into the trap of complacency.
The Prayer of Examen is a prayer practice that has helped me to live more gratefully in the presence of God by helping me be more fully aware of God’s abundant, overflowing grace, and more attentive to my need for forgiveness. As I daily practice this prayer discipline, I have discovered that my eyes are open to God’s glory in ways that I had not experienced before. I am growing in my ability to live in gratitude and contentment.
You may ask, “What is the Prayer of Examen?”
It is an old Ignatian prayer practice that can have many forms, but basically you pick a period of time (daily, weekly, etc.) and ask yourself questions that help you to examine and reflect on your day and then lead you into prayer. I encourage you to google Prayer of Examen if you want to learn other ways of using this prayer. I have chosen to ask myself three questions every night as I reflect on my day.
Question 1 –
“How did I see God today?”
Then I praise Him for who He is. He is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise. God is constantly revealing Himself to us through His word, nature, others, and others as well as through different life situations. God wants us to know Him. I used to pray each morning, “Lord, show me your glory.” Then one morning I sensed His Spirit telling me He was showing me His glory all the time, I just wasn’t looking. Now I ask Him to open my eyes to His glory. Now that my eyes are open, I am overwhelmed daily at the glorious character of God. Sometimes, I just need to get on my knees because I am overcome with worship and complacency vanishes.
Question 2 –
“How did I experience God’s grace today?”
Then I thank Him for gifts of grace – both big and small. Someone once asked me if I would have tomorrow only the things that I thanked God for today, what would I have. Think about that…it still gives me pause whenever I think about it. The big things like salvation, forgiveness, freedom, adoption into God’s family, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the cross of Christ…the list could go on forever. Everyday blessings like food, shelter, clothing, a car, a computer, electricity, running water, and again the list is almost infinite. Relational blessings like family, friends, church family, ministry opportunities. The blessing of health is a profound gift…to be able to breath, see, hear, taste, move without pain…all are gifts of grace. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Ask God to open your eyes not just to who He is but to all He has done for you. You will cease to be complacent.
Question 3 –
“What do I wish I had done differently?”
Then I confess. If you are anything like me, you enjoy praising and thanking God and even asking for whatever you need in prayer, but confession? Well, that is harder. We would like to just say, “Forgive my sins.” And leave it at that, but God wants us to be aware of how we have sinned and to be truly repentant for those things we have done that are not obedient to Him. Self-examination is tough work, and it is very humbling. Self-righteousness and pride have no place where true repentance is found. But when we do confess, we are assured once again, that we have been forgiven because of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We experience freedom and release from guilt or shame. We do not settle complacently for a life half-lived for Jesus but experience a life fully and passionately devoted to Him.
May this prayer practice bless you as you overcome our very human tendency to be complacent and renew a spirit within you that is filled with gratitude, content, and great joy.
Written by Jolene DeHeer
Classis Grand Rapids South Prayer Coordinator