25 July 2020

The Prayer That Changed Everything

I have written a lot on how I used to wrestle with a spirituality of striving, of grasping. I used to think I had to be more or do more to please God.

The Examen changed all of that for me. It is the prayer that changed everything.

Before I began to incorporate the Examen into my daily prayer life, spirituality was about "doing" lots of holy things for God: going to weekly Adoration, attending extra daily Masses, reading spiritual books. I viewed these things as items to mark off my spiritual checklist. 

Prayed extra? Check. Spent more time in daily prayer than the day before yesterday? Check, check. Looked holy by doing all the things? Triple check. (I was especially good at this last one).

Living out of this yoke - this striving, grasping - kept me from seeing that a relationship with God is about being, not endless doing. It is continual and evolving.

Perhaps it is best described in the words of Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who perished at Auschwitz: My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with you, o my God.

As I read more books on Ignatian spirituality and practiced the Examen, I learned to encounter the presence of God through my experiences and emotions in daily life. I saw God in a new way: He wanted me to rest and just be more often. 

God saw my growing exhaustion and wanted to carry it for me. In time, I saw my relationship with God as not the burden that I had made it out to be but rather as an opportunity. I felt seen, known. I was relieved to discover that I could stop performing so much.

The Examen teaches us that God is found in the humdrum of daily life, through the ebb and flow of highs and lows, joys and sorrows. The presence of the living God can be experienced in our thoughts, emotions, feelings and desires; both the happy and uncomfortable ones.

Incorporating a daily Examen into my life helped me realize that truly living a spiritual life is about practicing the presence of God every moment of every day. I liken it to being a detective in your own life; you are becoming more aware of seeing where God is at work.

Read the rest over at the Jesuits . . .

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