Stop, Drop, and Pray
It’s no secret Americans live busy and noisy lives. Numerous studies have shown we are over-worked, over-stimulated, over-scheduled, and over-burdened. Many of us are constantly “plugged in” to smartphones, the Internet, television—you name it. And in the midst of this chaos and noise, one of the first things to get squeezed out of our lives is prayer—sharing with the Lord our hopes, desires, ideas, failures, fears, and frustrations.
Yet prayer is one of the most important disciplines in the Christian life. William Carey wrote, “prayer, secret, fervent, believing prayer—lies at the root of all personal godliness.” Prayer transforms us. It transforms the world.
So how do we overcome our busy schedules and find time for prayer? How to we learn to pray?
One helpful place to start is with an ancient church practice called, "The Examen". This tool helps us develop a continually growing awareness and discernment of God’s presence in our everyday life. As we practice a regular review of the day’s experiences—tasks, relationships, daydreams, attitudes, surprises, thought processes, moments of clarity, moments of confusion, joys, disappointments—we ask God to reveal how He may have been present and active active in both the high points and the low points of our day. The Examen, when practiced regularly, will help us gain a deeper, growing appreciation of what it truly means to know a loving God who is with us in every aspect of our lives. I would encourage you to use this prayer tool before bed this week and make sure prayer is a refuge from your the busy and noisy world around you.
The following is taken from a variety of sources including "Rummaging for God: Praying Backward through your Day", "Sleeping with Bread" and adopted by a Covenant Spiritual Directior, Tom Eisenman.
Pray for Light: When we enter into the examen we are asking God to enlighten us about God’s presence and activity in what has transpired during our day (or week, or within a particular experience). It is important to pray for understanding, to be able to recall and review our experiences in spiritual terms, and to pray for wisdom and discernment.
Review the day in Thanksgiving: Do a brief interior walk through of the day (or week, etc). Move from hour to hour, task to task, person to person, thanking the Lord for these experiences while taking note of what is happening within you as you recall and review the moments that come to mind.
Attend to the feelings that surface while reviewing your day: The emotions that rise in you, the positive and negative, the painful or pleasing, are strong signs that God may be encouraging you to focus your attention in prayer at these points. It may help to ask questions like the following to listen for how God may desire to speak to you regarding your day: When did I feel most alive today? When did I feel life draining from me? For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful? When did I give or receive the most love today? When did I give or receive the least love today?
Focusing your prayer: Choose an area where you sense something important was going on, and focus your attention there in prayer. Ask God to show you how He was/is at work in this area of your life. You may want to especially savor a powerfully affirming moment (an obvious experience of consolation). Or you may find yourself exploring further a difficult part of your day, asking God to show you how he was working in your life through that tough time. If you grasp how God was at work in what felt to you to be a desolation, that desolation can become a consolation. We can begin to see more and more how God truly is at work in every aspect of our experience. And grasping this can lead us back again to heartfelt gratitude for a God who cares about all the details of our inner and outer lives.
Prayer of closure: Your closing prayer time may include confession for some failure to respond to the Spirit’s call, or for some missed opportunity to love. Or you may find yourself expressing again your heartfelt gratitude to God for the great gift of His grace and active presence in all of your life’s experiences.
Prayer for help and guidance for tomorrow: Ask God to give you an even greater awareness of His presence in the events of tomorrow. Pray for any specific needs, questions, fears or concerns. Rest in God and resolve to watch for and follow Christ in the coming day. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” Deut. 31:8 (NIV). “God is with you in everything you do” Genesis 21:22 (NIV).