As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve just come back from retreat. While I was there, I found this Examen of an Interior Wound, which struck me as quite possibly the most helpful such prayer I have found over the years. (It comes from the book, Reimagining the Ignatian Examen, by Mark Thibodeaux). So here I share it with you, along with the author’s remarks:
“If you and I are honest, at any given moment we can probably identify a wound or two within us. A wound is some emotional hurt in my heart, psyche or soul caused by something painful that has happened. Maybe you were insulted by someone. You felt rejected. You were fired from your job. You were unappreciated. This examen leads us to pray about these wounds.
Quickly read through the whole thing before beginning this examen. Note that it is a particularly challenging one. If you’re not in the right space for it, then you might want to pass over this one until a day comes when you are ready for it.
- I begin in my usual way.*
- I spend a few moments in gratitude, thanking God for one or two of the blessings, big and small, that I’ve received today.
- I ask God to show me a wound in my heart at this moment. This wound causes me to feel hurt, frightened, angry, resentful, or remorseful. I allow God to take me to that difficult place in my soul. Perhaps I find myself painfully – but also prayerfully – remembering the moments that have created this wound. I courageously sit in the midst of this difficult moment. Perhaps I ask Jesus to hold my hand as I prayerfully relive the worst parts.
- I ask God to show me the strongest emotion I have at this very moment as I rehash this painful experience. I speak aloud to God about how I am feeling. I say, “God, I am furious (or sad, or grief-stricken, or confused).” I sit with God and with these feelings for a moment.
- I ask God to show me how this wound might become worse, growing in size or becoming infected. If I were to allow this wound to lead me away from faith, hope, and love, what might that look like? Concretely, in what ways might this wound tempt me to behave poorly? I ask God to help me prevent this from happening. If I need a particular grace to help me guard against this poor behaviour, I ask for that grace from God right now.
- I sit in the silence for just a moment, giving God a chance to do whatever God wants with me right now. Perhaps, in this quiet moment, God will just place his warm fatherly hand on my head. Perhaps God will say something to me. Perhaps we’ll just sit together in the silence. It’s okay if God seems to be saying and doing nothing at all. I trust that he will heal this wound in his own time and his own way.
- I prayerfully daydream for just a moment, imagining a day when I am no longer feeling wounded about this. What would that be like? What might be my attitudes, perspectives, thoughts, feelings, words and actions if I were truly a recovered soul? What grace would I need to begin to heal? I ask God for that grace right now.
- I ask God to show me how he might make good come out of this hurtful thing. How can this wound make me stronger? More loving? More humble? More spiritually mature? How can I become a more effective disciple of God’s love through this wound? I ask God to make good use of this wound; to use this experience of mine for his greater glory.
- If I feel called to do so, I make some concrete resolution to be a person of faith, hope, and love, in the midst of this painful reality in my life. I trust that God will be there with me through it all.
- I end in my usual way.*
*A note on beginning and ending in “my usual way.” The author of this book pointed out that we all enter into prayer in different ways; some might repeat a favourite verse, some might choose silence, or light a candle, or make the sign of the cross, or have a preferred place, and so on. He did not want to prescribe how this should be done, only make it clear that whatever each person does to begin and end a time of prayer should be observed here.