Have you ever had to check yourself out? I remember when I was a kid in Boy Scouts having to do a “tick check” on myself whenever I came back from the woods. It was a very necessary (while it lacked in gracefulness and modesty) part of returning home. I have probably done this hundreds of times and only found 2 or 3.
But I am pretty glad I found those 2-3. And yes, there is an entirely awkward story from early in my marriage about a tick check.
Think of the modern health care industry. All of us are instructed on several self-examinations for different types of cancer. We know it is up to us to take responsibility for our own long term health.
There is a different type of self-examination. St. Ignatius of Loyola is generally considered to be the go-to resource for Christian self-examination. He wrote an entire prayer book on the practice. In many ways, you can sum up what he said with this quote.
I think self-examination is a practice we all need to take on and it is easier than we think. I want to share with you a little about why it matters and how easy it is to add it into your life.
Let’s talk about the power of self-examination
Self-examination matters because it is one of the ways we get into the critical issues of the heart. It means taking responsibility for “the self”. The Self is the critical part of our hearts where free will and response are worked out. Taming The Self is an act of sanctification. It is the mode (post-justification) where we are willingly giving ourselves up to God, allowing the tough work to be done by the Holy Spirit and creating a transformed heart.
Two things are happening when we take responsibility for The Self.
1. We are taking responsibility for the inward AND outward act of submission to Jesus
2. We are participating in the transforming life of God in the world. Our story then is added to the story of the world.
The easiest way to begin self-examination is asking ourselves tough questions. As a Wesleyan, it’s part of my own DNA. I wrote about this process of tough questions here | Beatles or Stones: Asking Ourselves the Tough Questions |.
Lately, I have been asking myself the same question every morning for a couple of weeks. It lets me really marinate it all in and get honest. It is interesting how my answer gets deeper and deeper every morning. I find myself growing tremendously inside and really changing my outward actions.
Here is my current question.
How have I contributed to the person I am today?
This question lets me spread things out wide. I can think both positive and negative. I can take personal responsibility for my sinfulness and how I sometimes act out and respond from broken places. I can also look at how the hard work of sanctification has been playing out and recreating me into the image of Christ.
I challenge you to think of the tough questions you need to be asking yourself. It will be worth it. Trust me.
Good Reads quotes tagged self-examination
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
Prayer is quite possibly the spiritual discipline I have to give the most attention. Prayer really doesn’t come as naturally to me as reading does. Several years ago I really wanted to begin praying better and building a more prayer centric life. I have struggled in the past with keeping myself in prayer and I decided to start keeping a prayer specific notebook. After just over a year with the practice, it has proven to be very beneficial for me.
Let me explain to you my prayer notebook. I wanted something I could keep with me all the time. I am partial to Field Notes Brand notebooks. You can pick them up in tons of different colors. I wanted something I was excited about so I would actually use it. I found out the notebook started to get ragged out quick, so I picked up a leather cover on Etsy. The notebook now resides permanently in my back pocket as part of my daily carry.
I start each day with Wesley’s Covenant prayer. I keep a copy in the notebook marking my place. I write down the date and any requests I know I need to be praying for. I list peoples names. I can flip back through the last few days and make sure I am moving things forward.
I like to do this because I don’t like lying to people.
Preachers tell others “I’ll be praying for you” quite a lot. It is easy to forget. Instead, I tell people that now and immediately (in front of them) write it down. If I have told you I am praying for you in the last year…your name is in one of these books.
I also write down short, one sentence prayers during the day or in the evening.
I like my prayer notebook because it is an extremely tactile practice. It keeps prayer right in front of me. It is a constant reminder of the Holy and also of the holy practice of going to God in prayer throughout the day.
As I have journeyed into the discipline of prayer, I can’t imagine doing it without my little notebook. It keeps me centered. Using a notebook reminds me prayer is a terribly practical activity. It is something we actually should be doing, paying attention to. Prayer takes time and effort.
I hope you are a person of prayer. If it is a hard thing for you I really hope you would consider the idea of keeping a prayer notebook. I like to think it has been a big help to me making prayer part of a normal, every day life.
When anyone intentionally decides to start building a life of prayer the first honest question is “How?.” Through my life, I have had moments where these decisions have to be made. Prayer, like any other part of the Christian life, means constantly pushing forward…going deeper and deeper. What counts is finding moments and different practices which continue to push this journey forward.
A few years back at the meeting of the Louisiana Annual Conference of the UMC, Rev. Adam Hamilton led several sessions and discussions on church vision and vitality. At several moments along the way he either pointed to or lead us through Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. Traditionally this prayer is used at the beginning of the year as congregations recommit towards holy relationships and mission. What Rev. Hamilton illustrated was this prayers place in the everyday life of individuals and congregations.
For anyone looking for a new way point in the life of prayer, either beginning or reinvigorating, the covenant prayer is an excellent addition.
- I am no longer my own, but thine.
- Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
- Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
- Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
- exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
- Let me be full, let me be empty.
- Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
- I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
- And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
- So be it.
- And the covenant which I have made on earth,
- let it be ratified in heaven.
I have found by making multiple copies and placing them in both intended and surprise location, I pray the prayer several times during the day. I have a copy in my bathroom and I pray it almost first thing in the morning. I pray it when I transition tasks during the day or when I start a time of devotion or study. It provides a wonderful embedded space in my life.
Yes, the language might be old fashioned, but I decided to not update it. It marks things as “special” for me.
I encourage you to practice this prayer. Make it part of your day at least once. Find the best place to put it into your devotional life. Trust me, it will be a blessing. So share this prayer. Make it part of your life. Above all, pursue a deep life of prayer.