Friday, March 2, 2012

Ignatian Prayer Adventure - Reflection 3

Back to the examen!

It's been examen week over at the Ignatian Prayer Adventure (see sidebar).  Loads of reflections and articles have been posted; even the most reluctant pray-er should be able to find something of use.

Yesterday I ventured out to a presentation on the examen by one of the Jesuits from the Campus Ministry at John Carroll University.  (No, I couldn't drive one day post-surgery, but I felt pretty good.  I actually feel more discomfort today, probably because I have abandoned the narcotics.)

Anyway.  A fairly large group of us ate lunch and talked at our tables.  We were supposed to be discussing ways in which we might use the tools of the examen with students, and in particular with students who are making major life decisions.  An excellent topic.  But most of the people at my table are administrators who have little contact with students, and so we talked about our own prayer lives.  

Several people in  my group shared their frustration at being unable to maintain regular prayer schedules, or fears that they are "doing it wrong."  So here's what I shared:

I sleep restlessly.  I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the nights I have slept straight through since September 2008.  None at all for the past six months.  And yet, when I pray the examen at night, I tend to doze off.

It finally occurred to me, as part of my renewed examen practice, that when I wake up in the night, I can just pick up where I left off.    So my examen practice goes something like this:

Around midnight: Pray for a recognition of God's presence and light, and pray with gratitude for what there's been in my day that seems to warrant my gratefulness.  Fall asleep.

Around 2:00: Pray through my day,  looking at those places and times in which I have felt drawn toward God, and those in which I have not.  Fall back to sleep.

Around 4:00: Pray for healing where regrets are concerned.  Back to sleep again.

Around 7:00:  Look at that!  It's time to pray for help with the next day and it's time to get up.   What perfect synchronicity!

Now I am sure that many people would like to tell me that I need to get my act together and stay awake and focus for fifteen minutes.  

But one of Ignatius's favorite words was "accommodation."  For a spiritual director, that means to meet people where they are, rather than insisting that they move to where you are.

For myself, it means accommodating my prayer to the realities of my life.  

The results so far are quite wonderful.  When I awaken in the early hours of the morning, I don't have to dial up the anxiety meter and stare at the ceiling for hours on end,  worrying about all the things I have to worry about.  Instead, I pick up the pieces of my prayer and continue to quilt them together.

And would you take a look at what popped up in my reader tonight?

"For anyone else awake in these pre-dawn hours, these words from a seventeenth century Anglican vicar:
'Now is the soul nimbler, subtler, quicker, fitter to behold things sublime and great…. Midnight prayers strangely incline God’s favour.' - Anthony Horneck (1641-97)

[Quoted in Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe, by Craig Koslofsky; Cambridge University Press, 2011.]"


  1. "to meet people where they are, rather than insisting that they move to where you are." This is going to be my mantra! I think it is the place I aim for in my prayer life, in my spiritual journey and in my interactions in the world. So beautifully stated!

  2. 'Now is the soul nimbler, subtler, quicker, fitter to behold things sublime and great…. Midnight prayers strangely incline God’s favour.' - Anthony Horneck (1641-97)

    For someone who spent most of the Exercises praying the night hours, I love this quote.

    Christ pitched his tent among us, meeting us where we are, so why should not your Examen thread through your night?

  3. I knew you'd like that one, Michelle!

  4. So grateful that other people's rules can fall by the wayside. Once had a facilitator tell me I had to do the examen in the evening - thank you for the reference to Jim Manney's book. In it he says "I usually do the examen in the morning." Loved it! Celebrated it! Grace, pure grace.

  5. I have been trying to push my night-owl shaped peg into an early-bird slot and, needless to say it isn't working! The night hours for me are filled with the creative pulse, and I finally feel released by God to live how he made me. Thanks for sharing the quote from Anthony Horneck - love it! Praying for your nights, Robin, that they will be refreshing for you.

  6. What wonderful advice. Thank you. The Examen is so simple and yet so powerful.

  7. I woke up twice last night and tried bits of the Examen. Don't think I was quite with it enough but it made me aware of something that was very mixed for me at the moment and was able to pray about it before I drifted back off. When I woke up in the morning I was aware of a sense of gratitude over this situation. Thank you.