Are you self aware? Sometimes I am but I know at times I am not and I can definitely develop blind spots. Self-awareness is a popular concept in mental health. Dictionary.com defines self-awareness in this way:
In the previous post, we began to explore the Prayer of Examen and we stopped at Step 3 of the five step prayer model. Step 3 is an exercise in self-awareness, but at a much more meaningful level. In Step 3 we reflect on the past day and ask God to reveal to us our “character, feelings, motives, and desires“. This is much like Psalm 139:23-24:
With the Examen, we are regularly and proactively bringing all of ourselves in the presence of our loving Father and asking Him to guide us in this awareness journey of walking in the Kingdom of God as His disciples. But it is more than just the self, it is a journey of the soul where we want to become aware of our life with God, looking for places where we have experienced Him and also for places where we have felt distant or perhaps we have turned away. There will not always be breakthrough moments when praying this prayer. Many times it is just a great time of fellowship and reflection with Jesus. But there will be moments when Jesus has something He wants to clearly speak to us about. When He does, we will then want to respond, which is part of the next step of the Examen.
Below are the remaining steps of the Examen.
Step 4: Forgiveness(Confession) – Step 4 allows us to acknowledge those places when we have either willfully sinned, strayed away from God, or experienced the pain of living in a broken world. Step 4 is an intentional step to bring these places of brokenness into the presence of God for healing. Gallagher defines it this way:
I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens.
What a beautiful picture of what this step is all about. I am reminded of that old Hymn “Alas and did my Savior Bleed”. The refrain paints a similar picture of bringing our lives to Jesus:
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.
Step 4 allows us to expose what has been kept in the dark into the light of Christ. We confess these things and ask for God’s forgiveness. We cast our burdens and anxieties on Him because we know that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Step 4 allows us to go far beyond just self-awareness and self-help, we bring our awareness of our broken lives to Jesus and He rolls the burdens away. Wow, just writing that sentence feels so inviting!
Step 5: Renewal – In this last step, after laying our burdens at the feet of Jesus, confessing and asking for His forgivessness, we move forward to the new day, renewed in our identity as beloved children of God and to live in a way that would glorify Him. We can live more freely because we have let go of sins and burdens and experienced freedom from what kept us from experiencing an intimate walk with God. Gallagher describes step 5 in this way:
I look to the following day and, with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God’s loving desire for my life.
Step 5 lets us walk out what we learned in the previous steps. Maybe from Step 1 I make a plan to be more intentional to acknowledge Gods gifts throughout the day with gratitude. Perhaps, as a result of step 2-4, I feel drawn to incorporate a particular spiritual practice or maybe I need to seek forgiveness with a friend. Maybe there is something about the new day that will present challenges and anxiety and I want to prepare my heart to face these challenges in a more God-centered and healing way. The bottom line is we are renewing our commitment as a disciple of Jesus to follow and trust Him in this coming day, freed from the burdens and entanglements of the past.
Transition: leaving the examination room – as you draw this precious time with God to a close, you do so with a sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude that you were in the presence of such a loving, holy, and gracious God. You come away from the encounter with a sense of your significance, value and worth. You sense that all of your deepest desires are met in God and God alone. I have sensed God speak to me something like this at times at the end of this prayer: “I enjoyed this time with you, my Son. I can’t wait to do it again!” Me too, Daddy. Me too!
In the next post, I will describe an example of what praying the Examen looks like drawing from my own personal experience. But for now , why not experiment a little with the Examen and see how the flow of this prayer invites you into a deep and intimate encounter with God. Start with the awareness of your belovedness and how much God loves you. Look for any gifts God brought to you in this day. Spend a few moments and ask God to be with you and give you clarity as you begin the review of the day. Then take a few minutes and walk through the day, moment by moment, and notice what God is showing in the day. Rejoice in those moments of seeing God moving and confess sin and lift any burden that has impacted your life. Look forward to the new day, what would God have you do this day?
I pray this examination of the soul will bless you and draw you closer to your Heavenly Father.