One: the Desert Examen
May 6, 2020
We currently find ourselves within the desert – a middle space of sorts. The desert is rugged terrain. Resources are few. Comforts are even fewer. Life is chaotic and unpredictable. …and the desert seems to stretch on endlessly. For this reason, no one chooses the desert but, rather, just sort of find themselves there.
In our present sermon series — “Now What? Lessons from the Desert” — we’re exploring the lessons that God wants to teach us in the desert. One tool for noticing what God is doing within us and around us is the ‘prayer of examen’ or ‘the daily examen.’
The prayer of examen was created by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the early 16th century to help the missionaries under his care notice God’s movement in their lives so that they could discern how to live well and serve well. The examen is usually done at the end of the day, week, month, or year as a way of reflecting or examining one’s life.
The examen is a tool that helps us sift through the raw data of our lives – the moments, the words (spoken and unspoken) the emotions, the thoughts, the connections, the interactions, the anxiety, the peace, the stress, the tension in neck/shoulders, the pit in the stomach, the quickened heart rate, etc. – so that, from that space, we can learn what God is teaching us. In this way, examen is a way of praying that helps us discover more of God and ourselves in God.
The Harbor Churches Discipleship Pathway Team created a tool – the Desert Examen: a tool for noticing God in the desert – to help you practice examen individually, with a spouse, or as a family during this season.
There are four primary movements to the examen that we’ve curated…
One: open yourself to God’s presence with a short simple prayer. This could be as simple as using Moses’ words at the burning bush when God calls out to him. Moses replies, “Here I am!” Coincidentally, throughout the Scriptures, this is how people always respond to God when He calls to them. Here I am! It’s a Hebrew word that means availability and agreement.
Two: notice and reflect on the raw data from your day or week. You can utilize any of the four categories – Presence, Thoughts & Emotions, Provision, or Connection & Care – with the questions in each category as a supportive guide.
Three: remember what you’ve discovered by distilling it down to one word or phrase that you want to take with you. Record this word or phrase some place where you can come back to it.
Four: offer the data of your day or week back to God, acknowledging both the good things and the hard things but in gratitude for the ways that He is forming you this season.