Ever been afraid to pray in public?
Wondered if you’re the only person who struggles with their prayer life?
Thought about praying but pondered what you would even say to God?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone. In fact, based upon fifteen years of ministry experience, I’d say you’re pretty normal!
Prayer is difficult for a lot of us. We hear pastors, teachers, and other leaders pray, and we think, “Dang, my prayers sure don’t sound like that.” New believers are unsure of the “right” words to say. Many of us look down or away at the end of a small group or Bible study, praying that we won’t be called on to pray. If that’s not irony, I don’t know what is!
As the seasons change and fall begins, there are few habits more important to include in our daily and weekly rhythms than prayer.
So, if you’ve fallen out of a regular prayer practice or if prayer is a struggle for you, here’s a practical approach to prayer to get you rolling this fall:
It’s called the Prayer of Examen. Examen is a way of prayerfully reflecting on the experiences of our day, seeking God’s presence and asking for His direction. While Examen is often used at the end of the day, it can also be used at the beginning of one day to reflect on the previous one. Christians have been using the Prayer of Examen for nearly five-hundred years.
Let’s walk through the steps of this prayer practice and the Scriptures which undergird each one...
1. Pick a time. Set aside 15-20 minutes to really maximize your prayer experience.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” -Mark 6:31
2. Sit down in a quiet place. Turn off your phone and be present in the moment. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Become aware that you are in God’s presence and simply ask God to direct your thoughts with clarity.
“Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.” -Jeremiah 33:3
3. Start with gratitude. Begin reflecting on your day with a grateful posture. Identify several things which are easy to give thanks for and the things which are harder to give thanks to God for providing.
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
4. Review your experiences. Ask yourself, “Who was I with today? What did we do? What did I say? What did I hear and feel? What encouraged me? What discouraged me?” For many of us, we move and live so fast that we miss God’s work in the mundane moments. It can be helpful to make notes during this section.
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.” -Psalm 139:1-3
5. Review your victories and defeats. Ask yourself, “When did I feel like I was making progress today? When did I feel like a failure? When did I feel God’s presence the most? When did I feel like God was absent or distant?”
“Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned...” -Psalm 51:2-4
6. Look forward with hope. Before you conclude your time, summarize what you feel like God is teaching you from your experience and reflection today. Identify what you’re feeling led to do or think when you look to tomorrow. Consciously choose a hopeful posture for tomorrow. Ask God to meet you in the future, since nothing will happen that is a surprise to Him.
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” -Lamentations 3:19-23
7. Celebrate God’s grace. Thank God for being present with you, speaking to you, and loving you in the midst of your sins and successes.
“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:39
This prayer practice offers us the opportunity to talk with God about our days, discover His mercy and love towards us in the miracles and the mundane. Whether you experiment with the Examen in the morning or evening, consider how you can (as one person described it) “rummage with God” through your day and discover His faithfulness to you and His work in you.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He is the creator of the and you can read more of his writing at