The Awareness Examen is an ancient Christian prayer practice that invites reflection upon the day, the way in which God was present to you, and how you responded to that presence. This particular prayer practice was developed by Ignatius of Loyola as a daily discipline of reflection on God's activity in our lives. I use a form of this prayer following each youth group event or meeting as a way to avoid the trap of always reflecting on just the positives or just the negatives of a particular gathering. If a Bible study goes particularly well, it's easy to pat ourselves on the back and take all the credit for what talented youth leaders we are. If the youth group meeting bombs, it's just as easy to beat ourselves up about it all the way home and wonder if it's time to find a real job! Use of the Awareness Examen invites a more thoughtful reflection upon our ministry and the movement of God's spirit. Here is a brief suggestion for how you might try this prayer practice yourself:
- Find a quiet place and take some time to center yourself.
- Think back over the meeting/event/gathering as if you were watching a movie of all that happened. Ask yourself: What did you notice? What feelings or thoughts do you associate with the meeting?
- Think about where you saw God at work during the time together? Give thanks for these moments.
- Think about where it seemed you/others were unaware of God's presence.
- Think about where you/others were resisting God's presence. Ask forgiveness for this shortsightedness.
- Consider where God may be calling you to a new awareness. What new places might God be calling you to in your ministry?
- Give thanks for the time together with your youth and for God's presence within each of them.