Last week I spent three days at a conference as part of the diocese’s programme of post-ordination training. One of the presenters worked with us on “spiritual patterns for the long haul.” What I like about her teaching method is that she doesn’t just tell you about the theory of a way of praying, but gives you the opportunity to try it.
Amongst the many other things offered to us in this time, I was particularly taken with a creative and fresh approach to the examen. There are many forms of examen, but traditionally the main point is to review the day (or a recent period of time), in the presence of God. Such a review then leads you to repentance or to thanksgiving or some other form of response to God.
So how do you teach someone who might never have encountered this kind of prayer before? Apparently, you remind them that as God is always with you, God is with you right now. And you invite them to imagine that God is posting on God’s celestial Facebook page, a picture of the two of you together at this time, and you imagine what it is that God would say along with that picture.
It’s surprisingly effective. There’s something very immediate about this imaginative engagement with reviewing your self which gets beneath the surface of daily life to the heart of things.
But – here’s the catch – it’s not a technique I think I’ll use very often. For me, who has a particular horror of being publicly shamed, even the idea that God might express God’s disappointment or concern in that sort of public format is very distressing. Like everything, this technique will be wonderful for some people, and other people will be better to move on and find another approach.
But I have to admire the creativity and the effectiveness. I wonder what other ancient traditions of prayer might have new life breathed into them with a bit of similar lateral thinking?