8.1 The Examen: An Attitude of Gratitude.

Listen to this…

Today’s Lectio Divina: 

I’m thanking You, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on Your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing Your song, High God. Psalm 9: 1-2 (MsgB)

Ignatian Truth #8: Ignatian spirituality is all about the Prayer of Examen. Self-awareness is the key prayer practice of the Exercises and an important tool for becoming a discerning, grateful person. The Examen extends beyond the Exercises, helping us develop a healthy rhythm of life; morning, afternoon and evening.

We now come to that fancy little word, Examen.

Some pronounce it using a long ‘a’ in the middle, while others simply pronounce it like our English word, examine. Either way, the Examen describes a prayer technique, a discipline, or a tool that was used on a daily basis by Ignatius and the early Jesuits in prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern His direction for their lives. Originating from a Latin word that simply means “to weigh” or “to treat” something accurately, the Examen is a vital component to the Spiritual Exercises with Ignatius believing that it was a gift that came directly from God and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible.

I like the way Fr. George Aschenbrenner, SJ, defines it…

The Examen is a daily, prayerful exercise in discernment, helping me to respond to God’s loving invitation in all my daily activities. It helps me to find God in all things. The Examen is not primarily concerned with good and bad actions, but rather with the impulses that underlie them.

You see, if we truly believe that God, our Loving Creator, is indeed, in all things (as we discussed in earlier blogs), then it behooves us, as men and women, made in His image, to use our God-given gifts of discernment to discover just how that same God is working in and through our lives on a daily basis. Over the next three blogs, we’ll dissect Ignatius’ Examen, looking at three of its key components. Today, let’s start with the first and, quite possibly, the most important piece in finding God in all things:

An Attitude of Gratitude.

In all truth, if you or I go through our lives believing the glass is always half empty, we tend to take on a belief system that is full of pessimism, hopelessness, and despair. Yet, doesn’t it seem that those we most like to be around are people who carry a sense of lightness, hope and promise even when the world around them isn’t always that way? For Ignatius, it was vitally important for those who follow Christ to always hold onto the fact that God is in all things, and with Him in the picture, there will always be something that we can be thankful for.

Like the Psalmist in today’s passage…

I’m thanking You, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on Your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing Your song, High God.

there’s just something wonderful here when a person can remain thankful and grateful to God even when our day doesn’t pan out the way we might have hoped it would.

Now, some of you might be thinking to yourself that this is just a happy-go-lucky, Pollyannaish attitude here, but take it from me, the Bible seems to make it pretty clear that for those of us who truly want to dwell in the presence of the Divine, we must be willing to learn the fine art of thanksgiving and gratitude along the way.

Which begs the question…

What condition do you find yourself in today?  Good? Bad?  Ugly?

And, regardless of the externals, can you find a place of gratitude in your heart?

Is your inner attitude one of doom-n-gloom or are you willing to be more like the Psalmist and find a place of thanksgiving in your life today?

To get you started, here’s a simple prayer of gratitude*…

My prayer: Lord, let the details in life take my attention today
A warm mug of tea
The gentle grass under my feet
And the chance just to gather and eat

O Lord, let the everyday pleasures ring out melodies in my heart
The smile of a friend
A warm comfy bed
The sunlight on the trees and walks in the park

O Lord, let the more ordinary reveal its amazing delight
Clouds drifting by
Birds sweeping high
The sunset that transforms day into night

Lord, may these things inspire me to praise
And bring a clear moment of sight
Now I see how amazing the world truly is
And soak in Your goodness and light

For Your name’s sake. Amen.

*find more prayers of gratitude at Lords-Prayer-Words.com

My questions to ponder: The Psalms are full of prayers of gratitude. Psalm 100: 4-5, for example, says…

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

So, how am I entering into God’s gates today? What’s my inner attitude as I enter into His courts? Am I full of myself, consumed with my inward thoughts, chattering mindlessly to God about fixing my problems; or am I willing to lay all of that aside for a moment, and first and foremost, ask the Holy Spirit to give me a true attitude of gratitude?

How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today? 

Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.

If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.

Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activistwith your friends! 

Click here to go on to the next blog/podcast in this series…

1 thought on “8.1 The Examen: An Attitude of Gratitude.

  1. Pingback: 7.3 Tending To Our Sacred Spirit. | The Contemplative Activist

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