Prayer of Examen
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:8-9
Step one to get “uncluttered” is confession.
The word “confession” in the Bible comes from the Greek “Homologeo.” This translates as “Same word.” What it means is that we’re saying the same word as God. We’re willing to say the same thing that God says. We’re getting into agreement with God.
God says that angry outburst was a sin.
We say the same.
God says that greedy decision was motivated by sin.
God says that lustful look was sin.
We confess the same.
Now we have the opportunity to clear out the clutter and experience the forgiveness of sins and the purity of God. When we agree that sin is real, and sin separates us from God, confession is how we remove the clutter and grow close God.
A profound practice of confession is the “Prayer of Examen.”
Saint Ignatius commended this practice to all followers of Jesus.
Twice a day, noon and night, we stop and examine our lives,
Confess our sins,
And move forward in faith.
For the sake of alliteration and simplicity I’ve re-worked Saint Ignatius’ Examen into three steps:
Review. You have to get in the right posture of review. So stop. Set down the phone. Walk away from the desk. Break deeply. Quiet your soul. Clear your mind. Then review your day so far: Have you been aware of the presence of God? Have you lived out of the filling of the Spirit and displayed His fruits? For what can you give God thanks? Don’t rush the review and don’t skimp on the rejoicing (that’s your bonus RE word).
Repent. Here’s the confession part. A good way to approach repentance is by examining sins of commission and omission. Have you committed any sins- You spoke harshly of another person. You lied. You broke the speed limit (yep, sin.). Confess it. Then repent of sins of omission- You did not exend love to a neighbor. You missed an opportunity to show mercy. You have not been generous with your resources. Confess these as well.
Request. With an honest review and the confession of sins the first thing we can request, and receive, is forgiveness. Let God’s forgiveness wash over you and renew your faith. Then feel free to bring all your requests before God. Pray for yourself, your loved ones, your church…
It doesn’t have to be long. Five to ten minutes is all it takes. Of course it can be more.
A journal helps. Writing our our confessions and our requests is a great way to grow and to track God’s work in your life.
And setting an alert on your phone is a great hack. It will surprise you. It will come at very inconvenient times. You will want to postpone of delay your examen. But by all means possible, do it at that moment.