Spiritual Disciplines // STUDY AND SELF EXAMINATION
This week we had the opportunity to witness the incredible courage of Nehemiah. He had quite the task in front of him – to rebuild the walls of the city; yet he first had to know just how bad things had gotten. Here is the account from Nehemiah:
11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding. 13 So I went out at night by the Valley Gate in the direction of the Dragon’s Well and on to the Refuse Gate, inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire. 14 Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass. 15 So I went up at night by the ravine and inspected the wall. Then I entered the Valley Gate again and returned. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials or the rest who did the work. 17 Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” 18 I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work.Nehemiah 2:11–20 (NASB)
It is hard to be honest about the current state of things that are important to us. Have you ever noticed that we have a propensity to avoid, gloss over, or otherwise distract ourselves from thinking about our own lives? To slow down, to be honest with the state of our heart takes courage. Today we will take the opportunity to learn and participate with the “Prayer of Examen.” Below you will find an outline of the process as taught by our friends at 24-7 Prayer. This simple process for reflective and introspective prayer has been used by Christians for HUNDREDS of years. Like Nehemiah it requires us to be honest with the current state of our “walls”.
Note: Many of you will be doing this devotional in the morning. That’s great! I’ve found this to be even more helpful in the evening when my day is still fresh in my mind.
Find a quiet place and begin breathing slowly. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of God’s Presence.
REPLAY: Think over your day (or previous day) in your mind. Allow it to play like a movie running through your mind. What sticks out to you? Pay particular attention to moments where you felt emotions. Were there moments you felt happy, sad, anxious, or angry? Make note of these – write them down.
REJOICE: Spend time thanking God for the obvious things. There will be moments that stick out; but don’t forget to thank God for the not so obvious moments. Were you healthy? Did your favorite song come on the radio? Were you able to enjoy a good meal? Did your children not bother you in the bathroom? Don’t let the obvious crowd out the small moments of blessing.
REPENT: There will be moments of regret! Did you participate in gossip? Did you bend the truth at all? Did you exaggerate something? Did you react harshly to someone? These are all sins of COMMISION (doing something wrong) as opposed to sins of OMISSION (not doing something RIGHT). Did you miss a moment where the Holy Spirit prompted you to do something? Did you ignore a need? Repentance is a gift – it postures us to receive afresh God’s kindness. God receives our sins, as offered through a repentant heart, and offers full grace. Take a few breaths to receive His grace.
REBOOT: Make a commitment to walk out today filled with the Holy Spirit, empowering you to live a good and pleasing life God. The Psalms tell us “His mercies are new every morning.” Today is a fresh opportunity to walk in obedience.
This is the Prayer of Examen! I like to finish my time with a short walk or just sitting in silence experiencing the peace of knowing God is with me. This process is good and helpful to do once – it can change your life to participate on a regular basis!