Examen for the Year: Offer Gratitude
Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Walnut Creek, CA, USA
I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. -Psalm 89:1-2
The next movement in the prayer of Examen is to offer gratitude. This may seem like a simple step, but it is a critical foundation for the rest of the prayer. My wise friend Dustee Heinze once shared a metaphor that has challenged me to think about the way I view my life. She said when we lose our keys and search through the house, all we can see is where our keys are not. There is much more to see-perhaps the way the light streams in the window or how cute the dog looks curled up on the couch. There are so many great books filling my bookcases and pictures of family and friends that hang on the walls. All around me are images to provoke gratitude, but I often get stuck paying attention to what I don’t have and think I lack.
We come to prayer this way, too (or we don’t come to prayer because we think it has to be this way!). We pray to be better than we are. We pray for what we don’t have. We ask for more courage, strength, discipline, love. All of this has its value, but prayer is also a time to dwell in what is here and now in abundance-the radiant presence of God available at all times. To offer gratitude in the prayer of examen is to pause for a few moments and take a look around, whether at your external surroundings or within your soul. It is to let memories surface as they will and to give thanks for God’s presence in everything. Jim Manney writes, “This is God- endlessly bestowing gifts like rays from the sun, ceaselessly working, infinitely generous” (A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer, Loyola Press, 2007, p. 33).
Late for church one day, I caught myself feeling agitated and taking it personally when every light turned red as I approached, further delaying my arrival. As traffic passed, I took a breath and realized how worked up I was. I decided to pay attention instead to where I could direct my gratitude-a car to drive, a beautiful morning, a faith community to belong to, a baby in the backseat who was the cause of my tardiness and my deep joy! I felt my whole being start to relax as I decided to release the anxiety and simply be present to the sacred moment offering itself so fully.
Spend a few moments right now, wherever you are, practicing grateful seeing. Notice what is around you and within you that brings you delight, what makes life meaningful, what causes you joy. Part of seeing God in all things is to actually see all things, not just what consumes our focus at the moment. To slow down and really observe our life through a grateful gaze prepares our hearts for the rest of the prayer. For what are you grateful for this day? For what do you offer gratitude in this past year?
“God within, God around. In all creation, God is found” (Randall Pratt, Community of Christ Sings 20).
Prayer of Examen
Journal your responses to the questions above or spend time reflecting in silence.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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