Ancient church mothers and fathers often greeted one another with the phrase, “Give me a word.” This greeting led to the sharing of insights and wisdom. Today we continue this tradition with this monthly column.
By Rev. Mandy Sayers
Pastor, Covenant UMC, Gaithersburg
My first intentional observance of the Lenten season happened when I was a freshman at Duke University. My Wesley Fellowship friends encouraged me to do it, and they even seemed excited about things like Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
I went into the season with fear and trepidation, because Lent sounded so … depressing. All that burlap and ashes and stuff. What I discovered was that creating space and having intentional practices drew me closer to God.
I was pulled out of being trapped by my own never-ending ego, or my own insatiable need to be numb and distracted and in control. I learned that the word Lent comes from an old Anglo Saxon word for spring (as in, the season). That made sense. Lent was a time when God pulled the weeds out of the beds of my heart and made new things grow.
Our word for March is “examine,” which sounds like “yet another thing I have to do.” But I wanted to pair it with “examen”—that ancient prayer practice of the church that looks back on the day with an eye toward spotting the presence of God. God is present. God is speaking, even if it’s in a “still, small voice.” God is acting and calling and healing.
Here is the basic structure of the “examen” prayer.
- Become aware of God’s presence. Ask God to bring clarity about where God was present in the jumble of your day.
- Review the day through the lens of gratitude, paying attention to the small things that were gifts to you.
- Pay attention to your emotions as you reflect back over the day. What is God saying through those feelings?
- Choose one feature of the day, asking the Holy Spirit to direct you to something from the day that you should focus on. Look at it and pray about it. Allow the prayer to rise up spontaneously.
- Look toward tomorrow, asking God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges and gifts.
This Lent, take a closer look around you for the presence of God. Make space to listen and to be present. Examine/Examen where God is at work, in your heart and in your life and in your church. I guarantee that God is there, if we will open our eyes and ears to see.