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Episode 2. Examen, A Guided Prayer

February 2, 2021

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I'm Morgan Strehlow - writer and host of the Sanctuary Woman podcast.

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I have found guided prayers, such as the Examen, a really helpful way for me to engage in prayer with God. It helps me to rest in relationship with God, creating room for silence and contemplation and presence, as I release the misguided pressure to perfectly perform my prayer and simply just be. Be with God. Connect with God, while opening up myself for God to connect with me.

This Examen, based on an ancient spiritual practice from St. Ignatius of Loyola, is an invitation to prayerfully reflect and notice God’s grace and movement in the many aspects of our lives, particularly as it relates to how we embody God’s goodness. While the Examen is commonly used as a daily exercise, it can be adapted for weekly, monthly or yearly reflection and prayer. I have recorded this audio Examen to go along with the Examen guidebook, a free download that can be found in the show notes, as an annual exercise to prepare your mind, your heart and your body to move into a new year with intention and expectation. If you find this practice to be helpful, you can save this episode and revisit it as frequently as you’d like.

Create a quiet, restful and peaceful space for yourself that invites contemplation and interaction.

Light a candle.

Get comfortable.

Grab a journal, if you’d like.

If you’re feeling brave, have a mirror nearby. Any mirror will do, but a full length mirror would be especially welcome for some aspects of this practice.

While we raise our hearts and minds in prayer, may we also be aware of our body and how our body is responding as we invite God to speak to us and move through us, as we attend to God’s presence.

You may choose to stand, sit, kneel or move around. Whatever posture it is you choose, pay attention to what your body is doing and where your mind goes.

If you find that I’m moving too fast, feel free to slow down the speed of your podcast player or press pause between prompts as you take your time to pray and reflect.

Open yourself to know and to be known by your Creator.

Begin to take deep breaths.

Inhaling…

and then exhaling… slowly.

Inhale… “Bring peace to my mind, O God.”

Exhale… “Replace my thoughts with your own.”

Inhale… “Bring peace to my body, O God.”

Exhale… “Replace my thoughts with your own.”

Inhale… “Bring peace to my soul, O God.”

Exhale… “Replace my thoughts with your own.”

When you’re ready… let’s begin.

O Light,
Who sees me
Who searches me
Who knows me intimately
Who chases out the darkness 

Shine your Light
On this body you say
is Very Good
On this heart that longs for
the Very Good
On this mind you can renew 

Expose what you find favorable
Uncover that which I have clothed with shame
Make new that which has been broken and undone 

Reveal in me your Glory
Your Glory in this body
Your Glory on this body
This body, Glorious
Me, Glorious 

Wonderfully made by you, O God
Who is most Glorious 

May I see me as you see me
May I search me as you search me
May I know me as you know me
Intimately 

Show me, O God
where I need your healing grace
Remind me of your Very Goodness in my life
May I only know your Glory
May I only know your light 

I’m keeping watch.
I’m listening.
Be near.

GIFTS & GRATITUDE 

Remember and respond to God’s gracious gifts.

What gifts have you been given this year?

Notice and reflect on what you have received.

Where has God been strong where you have been weak?

Where has God offered help when you have felt helpless?

Where has God installed hope when you have been hopeless?

How has God met your needs physically?

Emotionally?

Spiritually?

How have you responded to God’s gifts?

Or do you need to respond to the good gifts you have been given?

Take a moment now to experience gratitude toward God.

Now, reflect on what gifts you have, in turn, given to God.

What is God wanting from you?

EPIPHANIES & CURIOSITIES 

Ask God for holy perspective. How would you describe this past year? Month? Week? Day?

What prayers of yours were answered?

When did you experience awe?

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you discern where God has been, and what areas of your life you need to invite God into.

What have you learned from God this year?

What have you learned about God?

What have you learned about yourself?

What have you learned about others? And the world around you?

What scripture moved you this year?

What do you still want to learn from God?

What are you longing to understand about God?

About yourself?

About the world?

What questions do you still have?

Notice the feelings that come up within you.

Are you fearful? doubtful? hopeful? disappointed?

CONNECTION & INTIMACY 

Reflect on what intimacy feels like for you.

How do you experience intimacy with God? With yourself? With others?

Think about the last year

When did you feel most connected with God?

When did you feel most disconnected with God?

How can you connect with God better in the year ahead?

Now think of who your people are. Are they family? A partner? A church? A small group? A friend?

When did you feel most connected with your people?

When did you feel most disconnected with your people?

How can you connect with your people better in the year ahead?

Now think about yourself. Your inner self, your outer self. All of your self.

When did you feel most connected with yourself?

When did you feel most connected with your body?

When did you feel most disconnected with yourself?

When did you feel most disconnected with your body?

Why is that?

THIS IS MY BODY 

Now – stand or sit in front of a mirror, if you have one.

Ask God for help seeing your physical self as God sees her.

Think about what you want to say to her.

What do you love and appreciate about her?

How have you honored her well? How have you dishonored her?

How could you have loved her better?

How will you love her better?

Continue to look at her with love, with affection, with care.

O Creator,
I wake up each morning and visit a gallery of your goodness
Look at this beautiful body who carries your goodness
who carries your purpose who carries your very image
who gives birth to your presence with every satisfying breath
I welcome your kindness toward and great care for your craft
For this body I give you praise
May I honor your self-portrait in her
May I honor your self-portrait in me

SENSUALITY & PLEASURE 

Now, become present to and aware of the thoughts in your mind when think of that which is most pleasurable.

How do you, or how have you, experienced pleasure?

Recall something pleasurable that you’ve touched.

Something pleasurable that you’ve seen.

Something pleasurable that you’ve heard.

Something pleasurable that you’ve smelled.

Something pleasurable that you’ve tasted.

Take a moment to appreciate these pleasures and the satisfaction they bring to you.

Notice how you feel when you remember these pleasures.

Remember that the Lord takes pleasure in his people (Psalm 149:4).

The Lord takes pleasure in you.

YOUR FRUIT 

Now take a moment to recognize the fruit in your life – how these fruits are cultivated, or how these fruits are neglected.

As I name the fruits of the spirit, as listed in Galatians, consider if that’s a fruit growing in you, or if that’s a fruit that you need more of in your life. Consider if you embody the fruit, express the fruit or reflect the fruit to the people around you.

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Gentleness

Self-Control

What is keeping you from experiencing God’s fruit?

What is inhibiting your ability to live more freely into who God created you to be?

Which fruits do you need to focus on as you seek to embody the goodness and likeness of Christ in your life?

REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS

Imagine Jesus sitting beside you.

Recall how you have wronged others this year.

How does it make you feel?

How would it feel to release those feelings to Jesus?

How would it feel to repent?

You can do that now.

Now recall how you have been wronged or hurt this year.

What feelings you are experiencing?

Ask Jesus to be with you as you feel those feelings. (It’s okay to feel, friend.)

Consider who you need to forgive.

Consider how it might feel to forgive.

Ask Jesus to take the burden of unforgiveness from you.

Express gratitude for the holy spirit’s gentle work inside of your heart.

REST AND RENEWAL

What does rest look like to you? What does rest feel like?

How are you different when you are rested?

Think of the time you felt most at rest this year.

Maybe you can’t recall a time you have felt rested in the past year.

Why is that?

Take a moment to ask God for rest.

Now.. Ask God to be your companion and guide in the days ahead.

Remember that while your journey ahead is unknown to you, it is known to God.

Ask for God’s peace with that knowledge.

Ask for help to remain aware and responsive to where God is taking you and with what God is doing in you and with you.

Consider what you will need to be grounded, peaceful and rested for the year ahead.

Make your needs known to God

O Redeemer,
May your light break forth like the dawn
May your renewal come quickly
Renew my mind Renew my body
Renew my spirit
That your light may shine
That they may see your Very Good work
That I may see your Very Good work
In me.
Amen.

You may find the downloadable guidebook for this Examen practice in the show notes. My hope and prayer is that these contemplative resources provided in the sanctuary will lead to a greater connection to God, with ourselves, as well as honest and compassionate conversations with one another.

It is my pleasure to walk alongside you as we learn, together, to embrace and embody our belovedness and very goodness.

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