God will give you light for tomorrow’s challenges
by Rob Howlett, Burnham-on-Sea Baptist Church Minister
I don’t know about you, but as we start another new year, I often find myself reflecting upon the last year and consider all the things I could do better in the coming year. Eat more fruit and vegetables, do more exercise, join a gym, be a better person – plenty of new year resolutions!
The start of this year in particular is full of worries and uncertainty especially surrounding the implications of the virus still circulating in our community. Reviewing the last year each New Year’s Day and striving to do better in the coming year has almost become a habit of mine. Yet a habit I often fail in.
However, at the start of this year, I want to encourage us all to reflect not only on the past year, not just the past month or week, but to reflect upon each day, every day. And crucially to reflect upon each day, every day with God, in prayer.
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen, practiced by St. Ignatius, is an ancient practice in the church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience and one I whole-heartedly commend to you. It will also help develop a spirit of gratitude, a sense of thankfulness for each day and all that God is doing in our lives.
There are some simple steps to the Examen – and if possible, best practised towards the end of each day - while trying to stay awake!! (The steps below are a guide and taken from ignatianspirituality.com.)
1. 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. 2. 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.
3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our 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 to consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to them in some way.
4. 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.
5. 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.
St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face and do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. End the Daily Examen with the Lord’s prayer.