The mattress yields as I settle in for the night. My two-year-old climbs into my lap, and my arms curve around him. I shift to bring him closer, breathing in the silence of the moment. Closing my eyes, I breathe out the soggy diaper changes, toddler meltdowns, deadlines, and unfinished to-do list of this just-ended day.
"Christopher, it's altar time," I whisper. "Hmm," he agrees sleepily. "Dear God," I continue. "Thank you for this day."
And just like that, crumpled bed sheets become an altar, and Christopher and I are doing examen—offering Jesus the day that's been and speaking out our thanks into the night darkness as if our lives depended on it. They do.
We Belong to God
St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who founded the Jesuit order, developed the examen, a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God's presence. Ignatius believed that the key to healthy spirituality was to find God in all things, and that praying the examen daily would allow people to hear God in their hearts and enable them to discern God's will in their lives. Giving thanks lies at the heart of examen.
The simplicity of this way of praying pulls me in. You do it anywhere, anytime, even on rumpled bed sheets with the lights out, the comforter drawn up close, your child in your arms, and sleep just a phrase away. The wonder of the prayer for me, though, lies in that moment between "Christopher, it's altar time" and "Dear God." In that moment I realize that God is present, and his Spirit waits to guide me in remembering the day with all its good and bad and to receive my thanks.1