The Prayer of Examen
The world is in great need of God’s children to pray and bring heaven to the earth. Author Richard Foster posits that the key to the heart of God is in prayer. Prayer is our response to the overwhelming love of God and springs from the act of falling in love with God. Love is the syntax of prayer. Foster has subdivided prayer into twenty-one categories and spends a full chapter exploring each type in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.
ex·a·men – noun; a devotional exercise involving reflection on and moral evaluation of one’s thoughts and conduct, typically performed on a daily basis.
The Prayer of Examen is the third kind of prayer Foster discusses. The Prayer of Examen allows God to examine our lives and give his correction. Foster explains two forms of the Prayer of Examen, the Examen of Consciousness and the Examen of Conscience. The Examen of Consciousness reveals the presence of God in our day and how we have responded to his presence. The Examen of Conscience reveals to us what areas of our lives need God’s hand in cleansing, purifying, and healing. The Examen of Consciousness requires our prayerful reflection on the events of the day to recall God’s hand and Spirit at work in us, on us, and through us. It examines how we responded to opportunities that God gave us to practice moving with him to change the world. The Examen of Conscience examines our inner hearts to reveal who we really are and how God desires to mold us into his image. It involves listening to God without defense or justification. Foster insists we must offer who we are as a living sacrifice and not the person we want to be, “We give God therefore not just our strengths but also our weaknesses, not just our giftedness but also our brokenness. Our duplicity, our lust, our narcissism, our sloth – all are laid on the altar of sacrifice” (p.31). We come along this journey of examination to a place of self-knowledge that can nourish our souls. This self-knowledge mixed with faith produces self-acceptance and self-love springing forth from God’s acceptance and great love for us. The journey is inward but not into our very selves but through our deepest selves into God himself. This journey requires recollection that many methods, such as journaling, can achieve. The transformation comes when we surrender all the good and the bad aspects of our lives to God.
Give God all the good and all the bad elements of your life today. Spend some time with the Lord each evening and examine the day to grade how God used you or spoke to you to impact those around you. If there is room for improvement, you can be confident that God accepts you the way you are and will grant you a new chance tomorrow to shine your light for God. We are all tested, and with God, we will all pass the test. Rest in his love and reveal his love in your life to those around you that are seeking God. Rest in Jesus Christ, our savior and our prince of peace.
Foster, Richard J., Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.