I’m guest posting at Micha Boyett’s blog this week to talk about prayer and writing, which is pretty much right in her wheelhouse. I met Micha back in 2012, and was totally blown away by the pitch for her (then) upcoming book Found (as of this moment, it’s $3 on Kindle!). If you haven’t read it yet, I think quite a few of us will really relate this book’s stories about her struggles to pray while parenting little ones. I’m honored to write at her blog about the Examen and how it has transformed both my prayer and writing:
When I try to pray, I often find that my anxious thoughts get in the way.
When I try to write, I often find that I can’t form a single thought.
It feels like feast or famine most days.
How can I face my thoughts for prayerful contemplation without getting swept up in anxiety and worst-case scenarios?
How can I hang on to a few thoughts that are worth exploring through writing before the blank page wins?
Thankfully I’ve found that one practice can help with both problems. The Examen, developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, offers a lifeline to stressed out, over-thinkers like me, while coincidentally prompting writers to address what matters most.
Praying with the Examen
Ignatius believed the Examen was a gift given directly from God. After spending a significant time in prayer, he found that prayer could move forward best with this time of reflection and meditation.
The Examen is set apart from run of the mill self-reflection right from the start by its first step: Awareness of God’s Presence. We don’t face the most challenging parts of our lives alone. God is with us as we begin the Examen, and as we move forward into it, that awareness will only grow. In fact, the Examen encourages us to invite God into our days and our times of reflection.
The genius of the Examen is the way it stops the roller coaster of worry and distraction when I begin praying, while still offering a path forward. It provides an orderly, prayerful direction to my thoughts so that I can honestly face what I’m truly thinking without feeling restrained.