Sunday, August 4, 2013
Evening Examine: Taking Time to Reflect–Insights by Francis de Sale
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. . . .
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts![c]
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
Long-term spiritual growth necessitates reflection. We must reflect on our actions and attitudes—what we have done well and what we have not done well—if we want to see substantive change in our lives. Without regular inspection, we simply repeat the same mistakes and sins again and again.
If, however, we take time in prayer to look back over the day, we are open to what God has to show us. Of course we need to have a teachable spirit in order to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us. The Lord might open our eyes to see a missed opportunity to reach out to someone because we were too afraid that we might look stupid. Or, he might show us that something we did was right—but we did it with the wrong attitude or for the wrong reason. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit might point out a blessing during the day that we entirely overlooked.
None of this will happen, though, if we fail to take the time to slow down for a few minutes, reflect and listen. This is known as daily “examine.”
The practice of intentional self-assessment has traditionally been referred to as daily examine. In prayer we evaluate our thoughts, words and deeds in light of God’s Word. In his classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales offers a very simple but practical pattern for daily examine each evening.
1. “Thank God for having preserved you through the day past.
2. Examine how you have conducted yourself through the day, in order to which recall where and with whom you have been, and what you have done.
3. If you have done anything good, offer thanks to God; if you have done amiss in thought, word, or deed, ask forgiveness of His Divine Majesty, resolving to confess the fault when opportunity offers, and to be diligent in doing better.
4. Then commend your body and soul, the Church, your relations and friends, to God.”
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
This practice of morning prayer (see last blog) and evening examine makes a wonderful rhythm for spiritual growth. De Sales summarizes, “Neither this practice nor that of the morning should ever be omitted; by your morning prayer you open your soul's windows to the sunshine of Righteousness, and by your evening devotions you close them against the shades of hell.”
*All quotes are taken from the online free edition of Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/devout_life.txt
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers