Pastor, Writer, Contemplative

How To Stop Resenting


We’ve all experienced it. We wake up with a recurring memory, and it nags us throughout the morning. Finally we sit down with a hot cup of resentment and maybe a dash of self-pity, and we cogitate. Read the rest of this entry »


How To Pray Without Ceasing


Almost 20 years ago, I had a traumatic experience that shut down my prayer life. I was doing fine spiritually and in my faith (or so it seemed). Didn’t have any doubts, or unconfessed sin (that I knew of). My mind was right (so why was I so depressed?) The short of it was, I was experiencing Read the rest of this entry »

A Prayer You Can Use When You Are Afraid


But remember – Jesus abhorred talisman-like charm-prayers: Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Leave Your Marriage Before You Leave Your Marriage: 3 Things To Improve It


As I shared in a recent talk, church planting has been challenging to my marriage, only for me to come to the realization that my wife is the fount of all my ministry, life, and work. SHE is the Fount. Without her, nothing. And so if I am not present as a husband and placing her needs above mine, Read the rest of this entry »

Why Does My Faith Feel So Dry? 3 Things That Might Be Wrong:


At Woven, we’ve started a series of teachings on prayer that have been examining the soul and probing deep within my spirit as well. Over 15 years ago I suffered an experience that shut my prayer life down overnight and forced me Read the rest of this entry »

Let Justice Roll: Stirring Words to the Christian South From MLK

As a transplant, I have come to love the South, to make it my home, to be my place of mission and residence. Its problems I have adopted as my own. Its issues, mine. Its history… mine too. So I take part Read the rest of this entry »

Learning To Pray Again


click to enlarge

I was recently gifted a book called A Simple Life-Changing Prayer from my friend and superintendent Garth Bolinder. It was a timely gift, as I have been teaching a series on prayer and wanted to not only include a talk on the Examen, but also begin it in earnest myself.

The pic above comes from Jim Manney’s book itself (here is the original site) showing us a Simple Life-Changing Prayer in its distilled form. It really is not much more complicated than this, and for my own purposes I’ve distilled it even further:

  1. An Attitude of Gratitude
  2. Examine Desires
  3. Make Amends

My renewed interest in the above came when I found I would periodically “lose touch” with myself and God despite my progress and spiritual growth of late, I would still have “relapses” of judgment, temper outbursts, selfish streaks, etc. In those moments I would “leak” as it were… and have no idea where the plumbing is broken. Sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks – I would be completely out of touch. And as a minister I am not proud to say this, but it was because of a lack of prayer.

Mind you, I am speaking of prayer as a panacea for spiritual ills, not a puffing-up, hyping-up, pumping-up, self-psyching, check box exercise that I have been a good religious person today, but rather a prayer that is a meditative cogitation before God that examines motives and desires and serves as a regular spiritual SOTU (State of the Union) – this was not happening. That’s what I needed.

And so I’ve re-carved out the regular time in my day when I settle down for an inventory of sorts, an examen, a special prayer that discerned the presence of God throughout my day and also held up my own wants, needs, and desires to the scrutiny of the divine. It’s different from the 11 to midnight prayers I used to do which rattled off a checklist of Adoration Confession Thanksgiving Supplication, which was fine as it was, but I needed something more. And because for the longest time I couldn’t find it it seemed like I had been in a long desert stretch. Discovering the Examen has been like an oasis. It has no obligation to be long, no sense of multiplying words upon words. Wordiness is not helpful here. And yet the time is easily filled with discerning and prayerful cogitation that is not wandering, rambling, droning – meaningless (Matt 6:7 ““And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the pagans do”). At the same time it is concise. A good examen can be completed in 5 minutes and so I am not beholden to the clock as in my old performance-ridden days. Thank God I am free from that. My prayers now are both long and short – but anyway concise and effective and that’s because I now have a new purpose – not to multiply words before God – but to be grateful for my day, to discern his movements, and figure out what I must do to align in action.

The writing of C.S. Lewis comes to mind here:

“Only words, words; to be led out in battle against other words… I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer… why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?” – Till We Have Faces

So for the sake of myself and my community, I’ve taken it upon myself after some study to write our own examen (with accompanying mp3) adapting elements from the Ignatian Examen as well as the end-of-day inventory of Alcoholics Anonymous (10th / 11th Step prayers). It reads like this:

Woven Prayer of Examen

God, I am grateful for today. *

As I review my day, what should I take notice of? *

Please shed your light and show me what I really need. *

Where was I resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid? Do I owe an apology? *

Have I kept something to myself which should be discussed with another person at once? *

Was I kind and loving towards all or was I thinking of myself most of the time? *

Forgive me for my harms and show me what corrective measures I should be taking. *

This I do, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hope it’s helpful as it is presently helping me.

I now end my day after every and any activity, even if it is late-evening movie-watching, to end with an examen. 11 to midnight is sectioned-off once again. I feel no compulsion to fill the whole hour. Sometimes it happens, other times I am done early. If the examen was effective I am fine with that. I now also begin my day first thing in the morning with a short examen of sorts to get my mind in the right spiritual place so I can establish a conscious contact with God throughout the rest of the day. Get this – I do this even before I check my email on my phone!!! – tremendous lol. It’s also lessened some of the screen-related hypertension I’ve had. So unhealthy.

I am not listing these as a showing of pride but foolishness. Of course our prayer acts are to be kept “secret” as Jesus teaches in Matt 6. But for me it is foolishness because a) it is for your glory and benefit, and, b) to show that sometimes even ministers need to get onto better medicines for our own follies and character defects.