I am for Peace – Week 1 Day 4
I have spent this week meditating on Psalm 120 as I have made preparations for 2016. This Psalm is a Psalm of Ascent to be sung on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It also considered by some to the songs of those in exile longing and hoping for the return to Jerusalem. There are hints of that in this Psalm – of dwelling in Meshech & Kedar. These no doubt are poetic – Mesheck is a tribe on the edge of beyond (southern Russia) & Kedar is a nomadic Bedouin tribe infamous for its lack of morals. Wherever the Psalmist actually is – he feels a refugee, among a people of very different culture, desires, dreams and hopes.
So my meditation on this Psalm has given me empathy and led to prayers for those in our time feeling isolated and ‘aliens’ in a foreign land, refugees. It is us Christians who also are away from our home city, the city of God that can and must empathise and show compassion to refugees in our time.
This Psalm has also helped me consider how I can maintain my citizenship of heaven in an alien land. How I can be a man of peace, a man of God in a world which shouts and screams selfishness, greed, idolatry of work, pleasure and sex. And the answer must be found in the only time God is mentioned in the Psalm – verse 1 ‘I call on the Lord’. And so I have found the prayer of examen a helpful tool to ‘call on the Lord’ and combat the ‘lying lips’ & ‘deceitful tongues’.
What is the prayer of Examen. It is prayer of meditation considered to have been formulated by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). For me it helps me acknowledge the presence of the Lord in my world and to reflect how I can be more open to hearing and obeying his voice. Ignatius acknowledged that God is always present and at work but the challenge is for us to respond in gratitude and openness.There are usually considered five parts to the meditation and usually practised at the end of the day.
- Presence – find a quiet place (shut the door on the world- Mat 6:6) and find an appropriate posture and begin by recognising the presence and nearness of Jesus with you and then acknowledging his presence with you throughout the day as you review it in your mind.
- Praise, Gratitude – As you think about the last 24 hours consider all that you are grateful to God for and say thank you. As Eckhart wrote ‘if the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’ that would suffice.’ You may find it helpful to write these down.
- Pay attention to your emotions – What would the Lord think of these? Repent or Rejoice; Let go or Learn.
- Pray from one feature or aspect of the day that the Holy Spirit has drawn to your attention. Maybe an encounter with someone or a particular incident/situation. Pray about it.
- Present tomorrow before the Lord with hope.
As we do this we can identify the voices that are unhelpful (lies, deceit, strife) and the voice of the Lord that brings peace – Ignatius called these ‘desolations’ and ‘consolations’. In response we offer confession and gratitude. As Richard Fosters describes in his book on prayer. The Prayer of Examen ‘has two basic aspects….the examen of consciousness through which we discover how God has been present to us throughout the day and how we have responded to his loving presence…an examen of conscience in which we uncover those areas that need cleansing, purifying and healing.’
I have found it helpful this week to do at the end of the day – will you give it a go each night for a week? Let me know how you get on.