Praying the Examen Step 1: My Attitude of Gratitude

This is the second in a series of posts this week on the Examen Prayer, a prayer that will guide us throughout The Light Is ON.

By: Deacon Marques Silva

For a number of years, my nightly practice of the Examen Prayer was more of thanking Him for getting me through the day, a reflection on how I had disappointed the Lord that day and then begged Him for forgiveness, and committing to change tomorrow – right before I went to bed. To be honest, it was never a good experience. And it didn’t become one until I met a priest-friend who explained to me what St. Ignatius’ intention and process was for the Examen Prayer.

He shared with me that the Examen is really supposed to focus me on where I have seen the Father’s work in my life that day, and only then to make a way for me to encounter Him in the morrow. He shared that I first need to find Jesus. Then I need to acknowledge with gratitude those graced moments or oases in the midst of my daily life. With practice and attention, those little puddles or moments of grace would connect together and form little streams, then rivers and, finally, by God’s grace, result in a day and life immersed in an ocean of His presence and mercy. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J. said it best in Abandonment to Divine Providence:

“The activity of God is everywhere and always present, but it is visible only to the eyes of faith. The goal? To see those moments in my day and exclaim with St. Mary Magdalene, “It is the Lord!” (Jn. 21:7).

He encouraged me to seek and see the Lord first in my day. Then, after giving thanks for His presence, allow Jesus to “pull back the veil” and illuminate the rest of my day…my decisions, actions, relationships, etc. Thus, the Light of Christ naturally brought out of the darkness and into the light those areas that needed His healing, reconciliation, peace and encouragement.

To some, this might seem like a slight distinction in thought and practice. But the difference between me going through and weeding around my heart for the failures of the day and the Lord bringing them into His light by the work of the Holy Spirit might be comparable to the difference of an EMT attempting surgery and a skilled surgical team doing the same. It means that my white-knuckling attempts at change were less a force of will and more like “radiation treatments” with the Lord who was not only the source of the healing, but the companion encouraging and comforting me during the “treatments.” It was less of my self-condemnation and more of repentance tempered by His mercy present at that moment in time.

This new approach made so much sense to me and filled me with hope! The rest of the Examen flowed easier for me from there because I was now actively recognizing that Jesus is alive and He knows best. By acknowledging those moments and giving thanks, it fostered an attitude of gratitude that began to permeate not only my evening Examen, but my personality.

For me, the steps following the Thankfulness or Be Thankful step (see Our 5-Step Examen Plan) became much easier and fruitful by my change in mindset. More importantly, I believe that the first step is the most crucial step – especially in prayer. It determines our trajectory, and either gets us lost and thus fearful, or in route and full of hope. The Examen Prayer is part and parcel of my daily devotionals, not just a Lenten practice. I have found that without it, I am less joyful and more of, should we say, a “challenge” to my family.

I encourage you, this Lent, to give the Examen Prayer a shot. Most of all, I encourage you to develop an attitude of gratitude that is firmly rooted in recognizing the presence of the Lord in each moment of your day.

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