Introduction: Welcome back to our last week of Examen. We’re so blessed to have you join us.
Prayer: Begin with a minute of silence. Breathe in… breathe out… Allow the cares of the day to fall away. Don’t worry, you can pick them up when we’re done if you feel you need to.
Father God, thank You for listening to us. Teach us to fully listen to You.
We went deeper into Examen last week. Inviting God in with a warm welcome, pouring out our heart’s desires to Him asking for His grace and favor, then we moved into considering where He was during our day, seeking Him with a teachable heart.
- As you approached Examen in this way, what did you experience?
- Will you share a moment you felt close to God?
- What about a time God seemed distant?
- Did He reveal His presence in your day in places where you didn’t recognize Him in the moment?
- What did the review teach you about God? yourself?
In reviewing our day through Examen, we have opportunities to listen to God.
What did you notice God saying to you through Examen? Does it relate to your one word for the year?
Touchstone Reminder: Listen
In exploring what it means to Listen, we learned listening takes discipline and practice. And when we listen with a teachable spirit we invite correction into our lives.
This week we consider another aspect of listening. The biblical aspect. In both Hebrew and Greek, words translated as listen include the idea of obedience.
Take a moment to reflect on the Scripture. Read it out loud. Read it again silently. Then again. Consider the words.
Circle the word “listen” as you read.
“Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. O Israel, if you would only listen to me! You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god. For it was I, the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
“But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around. So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas. Oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths! How quickly I would then subdue their enemies! How soon my hands would be upon their foes! Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him; they would be doomed forever. But I would feed you with the finest wheat. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.”
- What words or phrases caught your attention? What spoke to you?
- What is implied by the word “listen”?
- What is God’s stance in waiting for the Israelites to listen?
- What is God’s response to whether His people listen or not?
God is our heavenly Father and when He speaks He expects us to listen, as in do what He says.
It’s the same for us. When we speak to our children or to our spouse and they do not do what we have asked or said, our usual response is: You didn’t listen to me. It’s not that they didn’t hear, they just didn’t listen.
We can hear without listening. When we listen to God, we do what He says.
You are certainly under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, or you wouldn’t have come where you now are: and the love that matters is His for you – yours for Him may at present exist only in the form of obedience. He will see to the rest.
– CS Lewis, The Collected Letters of CS Lewis, written to Mary Neylan regarding her return to faith.
CS Lewis explains to a friend in a letter that what matters most in the Christian life is God’s love for us. Our love for Him is expressed through our obedience. We may not feel the emotion of love for Him at first, but He receives our teachable, listening hearts as love.
“If you love me, keep my commands. …”
John 14:15 NIV
Listening involves obedience. And when we love God with our obedience He is glorified and His Kingdom is blessed.
When we listen and follow God’s leading it affects the entire church.
Read Mark 6:34-44
- What did Jesus see when He got to the shore?
- What did He do in response?
On shore, Jesus saw a great crowd, sheep without a shepherd. His compassion and love moved Him to teach them the many things they needed to know about God’s Kingdom.
- What problem did the disciples recognize as the day wore on?
- How did Jesus respond to their suggestion to fix the problem?
- Did they listen?
- What was the result of their obedience?
Recognizing a need or problem in our community is rarely the issue. The most important question for us to consider is whether or not God is calling us to do something. Learning to listen and following His guidance often leads us to do things we would never dream of doing and in less time than seems possible.
Our obedience has a ripple effect that spreads through the church in ways we can’t imagine. When we listen to the Spirit. He multiplies what we do.
I saw it twice within the last week. How He multiplied the little I gave in response to obedience. Both instances were centered around one focus: praying for the church.
First, I came across a prayer guide for the denomination where I worship as they go through a major decision-making process. I printed off eight to share with people at church that very Sunday morning. Then I heard: Print eight more. So, armed with sixteen prayer guides I distributed them all before the Sunday school hour.
Entering worship someone asked me for a copy of the prayer guide. I didn’t have any, so I took her information to get her one. Before I could sit down, I discovered the prayer guide had multiplied. Copied several times over to where I could deliver one to the person who asked, have two to share, and many were still in the hand of the one who multiplied them.
Next, came an inspiration to put together a prayer vigil for the same decision-making process. But there was only about 48 hours to prepare. I asked the pastor if it was possible. The Yes was given. I invited the sister to look at the themes given for prayer stations to see if she might be inspired to participate in the putting together.
The work began Thursday evening. Friday more work was done. Saturday, in the early hours, the work continued to put together a prayer vigil for that particular Saturday from 9 am to 3:30 pm.
God’s call to me to open the Sanctuary for prayer multiplied as the prayer stations for the prayer vigil became the focus of the Sunday morning Praise and Prayer Service. I didn’t even see it until the sister said: Thanks for listening to God’s call.
When we listen. Even reluctantly take the steps to obey. God multiplies.
Whether we obey His Word or the call of His Spirit in our hearts, when we truly listen His Kingdom is impacted in a positive way.
Scripture Foundation: Examen
Asking God to examine our days, is an invitation for correction and an opportunity for obedience.
Read Psalm 139:23-24
- What do we hear at the heart of these verses?
- What is your reaction to them?
- Is this a prayer you would pray?
God knows our hearts perfectly, He doesn’t need to search. What we hear in these verses is an invitation for God to reveal what He sees. It is an invitation to correct, to expose sin and self-righteousness, in order to learn to walk in the way of eternal life now. It is the prayer of a teachable heart and one willing to listen.
Read Galatians 6:1-7
Make a list of directions Paul gives to the Galatians.
Circle the ones Examen might lead you to do.
Practicing Examen often opens our eyes to the sin that entangles us as individuals and as a community. When we look deeper into our daily situations and circumstances, Holy Spirit reveals our heart attitudes both good and sinful.
Noticing or recognizing sin always includes a call to repent. We must come into agreement with God regarding the sin, confess it, and seek forgiveness.
Keeping watch on ourselves, bearing one another’s burdens and testing our own work through Examen leads to a deeper understanding of repentance. It moves us to consider the great work Jesus did for us through His crucifixion and resurrection. He bore the burden of our sin, making the way for our forgiveness and a restored relationship with God: Father, Son, and Spirit.
- How do you most often respond when you hear a call to repent?
- What emotions arise?
- Does remembering what Jesus did for you encourage you to engage in the hard work of repentance and forgiveness? Why or why not?
A response to repentance should move us to obey what we hear God say. It includes receiving His grace to forgive ourselves and others, seeking forgiveness from others, developing new perspectives, and making restitution if necessary. Our transformation allows us to love God and others more fully.
Transformation. The goal of all spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual Discipline: Examen
We’ve spent the month of February developing the rhythm of Examen.
- Inviting God into our prayer with a warm and generous welcome.
- Pouring out our hearts’ desires and asking for grace.
- Reviewing a specific time period in our life much like watching a movie.
- Considering when we felt God draw close and when God seemed distant.
In all of these we’ve practiced listening to ourselves and to God. This week we complete the building of Examen by adding our final step.
In the final step of Examen, we respond to what God has revealed in us and through us.
- What responses might we have when God speaks to us through Examen?
Examining our day can lead to the revelation of victories and failures. The goal of the exercise is to receive both with grace-filled teachable hearts and seek God’s guidance in Kingdom living today.
As you close each time of Examen, ask God to teach you more, to guide you further, and to show you His way.
Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet, always ready for whatever our Lord may wish to work in you. It is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than only one.
—Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius taught Examen as a way to move toward God in every moment of every day. It enables us to enjoy God throughout the daily living of our lives and is one way to follow Paul’s teaching to pray without ceasing.
Father thank You for inspiring the teaching of Examen. Jesus, thank You for paying the price that we might consider our days and grow closer to You. Spirit, thank You for guiding, correcting and leading us each moment. Amen.