We are now in the middle of the final week of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on thanksgiving. Even in a world that can be as dark and painful as ours, there is still a whole lot to be thankful for. It may be a roof over your head, a meal at the table, or a meaningful friendship. God’s grace is woven into the very fabric of our lives. Consider our text this week regarding thanksgiving, Psalm 100:
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
This psalm is originally written as a Psalm of Praise in response for all that the Lord has done on behalf of Israel. He had rescued them from the bondage of slavery, established them in the Promised Land and blessed them through the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. From darkness and despair to security and hope: God has made all things new for his people. You hear this specifically in verse 3 when the psalmist exclaims, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” All that is good and true in their lives, and in ours, comes from the graciousness of our God. That is why it is important that we put on the forefront of our minds the ways that he has provided for us, instead of simply dwelling on the hard things in our life.
Prayer of Examen
One of the practices you go through in our A Way of Life discipleship process is a prayer technique called the Prayer of Examen. The Prayer of Examen is a great way to look for God’s presence in your life. More than 400 years ago, St. Ignatius developed this technique for his own congregation. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us. This prayer opens our eyes to the ways God is at work in our lives. Knowledge of his working gives us a tangible sense of his peace, which produces thanksgiving within our hearts.
1. Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?
God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope. (Adapted from http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ )
An important aspect to prayer is learning to talk to Jesus like a friend. He wants to hear your heart, but he also wants to speak to you about yours. So end this Prayer of Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. When we come to that realization, our hearts can truly be thankful.
God has called his people to pray! Our families, communities, and world are in need of healing and God makes a conditional promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that we want to live out. God is calling us as his people to humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways. Please join us by:
- Praying daily at 7:14 a.m. & 7:14 p.m.
- Fasting one time per week