Today is the First Sunday of Lent, traditionally a time of repentance, a word that probably doesn’t carry great images for some of us, but at it’s heart it means to take a close look at our life and to turn back to God.
Lent is a time where we should stop and examine our lives, to look at different aspects of it and ask, is this leading me closer to God? Is this helping to grow? Is this bringing me life?
As a team this Lent, we have decided to say a particular prayer together: the Examen. This was developed by St Ignatius Loyola around five hundred years ago and is just as relevant and wonderful a practice today as it was then. Why not take it up throughout Lent as well? It can be said just before going to sleep, in the middle of the day, on public transport or in the car! Here is how it works:
This just means that when we sit down to pray it is best to get ourselves in the right headspace for it. Life is busy and noisy and we need to slow ourselves down in order to get into the right place to listen to God.
Spend a moment just breathing. All the random thoughts that pop into your mind – just give them over to God. Invite the Holy Spirit to be with you, to open up your heart and mind to hear God and to be attentive to Him.
Think back over the past day, or even the past week, and focus on those moments of peace, of joy, of contentment, those moments which brought some sense of happiness, as boring and mundane as they may seem! Give thanks to God for those moments, and try to see how his presence was there in that time with you. Is there anything he was trying to say to you through that moment?
This step is about acknowledging those moments where we didn’t get it so right, those moments where we sinned and fell short, or were just not as open to God as we could have been.
Think back and this time ponder those moments where it went a bit wrong or just those times of sorrow, of sadness or discontent. What is God trying to say to you through these moments? Maybe it is a call to work on something you struggle with such as anger or impatience.
God doesn’t want us to wallow in our sins, so bring those moments before him. This is where praying this in front of an image of the crucifix can be so beautiful, a reminder of how far God is willing to go to save us from our sins out of love. Know that he loves you and forgives you.
Think of a practical way of taking this prayer and putting it into action the next day. For example, if there was a particular sin you felt you struggled with, make a resolution to strive to avoid that the next day.
End by thanking God for the time of prayer you have had.