Have you ever felt like you were on autopilot? In the midst of your daily routine, you find yourself going through the motions, moving from one thing to the next without much thought or even awareness. I don’t know about you, but it often happens to me when I’m driving—especially when it's a route I take daily—or when I'm doing a repetitive, monotonous task. Now, there’s nothing wrong with routine. In fact, it gives us a sense of security. There’s something comforting about familiarity. That’s why we like sitting at the same place at the kitchen table and shopping at the same grocery store where we know where to find everything. (And, Lord, help us when they reorganize the store shelves and it takes us twice as long to finish our shopping, right?) But sometimes familiarity can lull us to sleep, so to speak—whether it’s in our daily work, our relationships, or even our spiritual lives.
Spiritually speaking, sometimes we find ourselves “sleep walking” through life, not being fully aware of what God is doing within us and around us. If we want to grow spiritually and draw closer to God, we have to "stay awake" to God’s presence, paying attention to the many ways God is moving, working, and speaking in our lives. A wonderful practice that can help us open our eyes to the specific ways God is continually expressing his love and offering his comfort and guidance is the Daily Examen.
We can thank Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who lived in the sixteenth century, for this simple and powerful prayer method. Ignatius believed that the Examen was a gift from God that should be shared as widely as possible, and he suggested that it was the most important habit a person could do each day. Perhaps that’s why Christians throughout the centuries have incorporated this prayer practice into their daily routine. I was first introduced to the Examen a few years ago and used it sporadically for a while; but since I have been practicing it regularly, I have been able to see God in my days with even more awareness and gratitude--including those times when I find myself struggling or feeling stuck.
If you Google the Examen, you will find a variety of approaches, many of which outline a simple five-step process. Here is my adaptation of that process:
It doesn't take long to move through these five steps, but if you'd like an even more streamlined version, you can simply recall something from your day that you are grateful for and something you're not so grateful for, talking to God about each. Or you could think in terms of what was life-giving and what was life-taking, or when you felt close to God and when you didn't. Whichever approach you choose, prayerfully reviewing the day in this way can help you to recognize God’s presence and activity in and around you, drawing your attention to gifts and graces that you might otherwise overlook.
The key is in noticing the details of the day, such as sights, sounds, conversations, smells, feelings, tastes, and even tactile experiences. Nothing is too small to notice—the taste of a meal, the fragrance of a flower , the song of a bird, a gentle breeze in the hot sun, the sight of a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the embrace of a loved one, a conversation with a sweet friend, a kind word from a stranger. Even noticing the unpleasant or difficult moments can lead you to a place of authenticity with the Lord, allowing you to share your truest self with God and then open yourself to receive God’s love, comfort, and grace.
With practice it becomes easier to remember the details of the day; and in time, you may begin to realize that you're more mindful of these moments as they are occurring in real time and how they are leading you either toward God or away from God. You may even begin talking with God about these inner movements as they happen, rather than waiting until you revisit them during the Examen. And that, after all, is the goal of the spiritual life—to experience God at all times, so that we have the awareness, just as Jesus prayed, that he is in us and we are in him (John 14:20).
There's no right or wrong way to practice the Examen, just as there's no right or wrong time. You might try doing the Examen at night before going to sleep, ending with what you are grateful for and savoring the sense of God’s loving presence as you drift off to sleep. Or, you might prefer to make the Examen part of your morning routine, reviewing the previous day’s events at the start of a new day. Either way, it’s a wonderful habit that can help you to “stay awake” to God’s continual presence in your life with an increasing sense of gratitude. Writing a few notes in a journal or daily planner can be a great complement to the Examen, creating a record of God's activity in your life.
For me, one of the gifts of the Examen has been a heightened sense of God’s companionship throughout the day, even in the more difficult or challenging moments. I’m also discovering that the longer I practice this simple way of paying attention to God’s presence, the easier it becomes to let go of those things that are truly inconsequential. And that’s an amazing gift in and of itself!
One night I was feeling burdened and having difficulty falling asleep. As I prayed the Examen, I found myself stuck in the disappointments of the day, unable to move on to gratitude. So I allowed myself to continue sharing those moments and my emotions resulting from them with God, just as I would with a trusted friend who was willing to listen as long as needed. It was like unstopping a clogged drain so that the water could flow freely again. Only then was I able to recall several gifts of the day—each so basic and simple and yet, as I realized while reliving them, incredibly significant. As I replayed in my mind the intricate beauty of a simple flower in a vase on my kitchen table, God spoke to me of his love and care for me—just as he cares for the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28-29). Eventually, I was able to drift off to sleep, savoring that very simple gift with deep gratitude.
If you'd like to become more aware of God's continual presence, noticing him in the details of your life, I encourage you to try the Daily Examen. This simple practice has made a profound difference in my life, and I hope it will do the same for you. My prayer is that it would help you to remain fully awake to God, recognizing the magnitude of his loving care for you at all times—every moment of every day.
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
You may be familiar with this well-known verse. If so, chances are that you’ve seen it on a meme or coffee mug or T-shirt. It’s that kind of popular—which is reason enough not to choose it for the name of your blog, right? After all, blog titles are supposed to be unique. So why did I choose a phrase from a popular Bible verse?
Well, Psalm 46:10 is a verse I’ve known most of my life, but it came to life for me in a powerful way one day when I experienced a guided meditation that had me prayerfully reflect on the verse in four phrasings, like this:
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know.
After meditating on each phrasing, I was to consider which one resonated most strongly with me. Now, this is the kind of exercise where you’re likely to respond differently on any given day, depending on what’s going on in your life and heart.
Let’s say that one day things aren’t going as you planned, and you’re feeling discouraged and defeated. On that day you might need the reminder that God is still in control and very much with you despite the uncertainty you’re experiencing: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Another day you’re running from one thing to another, frantically trying to cram it all in and not really being present or enjoying any of it. On that day “Be still” might speak volumes to your soul, encouraging you to slow down and breathe.
On yet another day you’re tired and worn out—whether from good things or difficult things—and you just need permission to simply “Be.” To be your true self and sit in God’s presence.
Well, on this day none of those phrasings resonated strongly with me. Instead, it was the second phrase, “Be still and know,” that arrested my attention. I was surprised by this—and even a little disappointed, if I’m honest—because all of the other statements are more definitive. This one seemed incomplete. “Be still and know what?” I asked. As I sat in silence, patiently listening, the answer came quietly as a whisper: “Whatever you need to know.”
In that moment I knew this was the voice of God, reassuring me once again with a profound message. You see, for much of my life I was one to question and second-guess, and this tendency extended to my spiritual life as well. Was that really God? Could that have been God speaking, or was it just me? How can I know for sure that I’m hearing God? And on and on. (Have you ever had thoughts like that?) Even after knowing that I had heard from God, often I would allow uncertainty to slowly creep back in again.
It wasn’t that I lacked faith in God; I lacked faith in my own ability to unequivocally hear God, which contributed to an underlying sense of unrest in my soul. I believed that the Holy Spirit lives in me, yet at times I struggled to fully trust that I was hearing God’s voice clearly.
It wasn't that I lacked faith in God; I lacked faith in my own ability to unequivocally hear God.
Then a number of years ago God began to do a healing work in me, teaching me that I could trust and rely on his loving, indwelling presence and voice. Through a deeper understanding of God's unconditional love for me and the contemplative practices of stillness and silence, I discovered a new way of relating with God, experiencing his presence, and resting in him—which translated to confidence in hearing his voice.
So, on that day when “Be still and know” struck me and God whispered that the knowing was whatever I might need to know in that moment, I realized that God was assuring me once again of my ability to hear his voice. He was reminding me that, most often, it is when we slow down, silence the noise, and listen that we can hear what he wants us to know—what we need to hear. If we will get still and quiet, we can trust that the God who loves us and dwells within us will speak; and we can learn to trust that voice. The Quakers have long observed this practice, sitting quietly in a manner often referred to as "waiting expectantly" as they make room for the Holy Spirit to speak.
If we will get still and quiet, we can trust that the God who loves us and dwells within us will speak.
I believe that God’s invitation is always for us to “Be still and know…” And I believe that whatever God might want you to know on any given day, it always begins with three things: Know that God is with you. Know that God loves you (just as you are--without doing anything). Know that God is speaking. Then…just listen. It's so simple and yet so profound.
So, that is why I have named this blog "Be Still and Know," and it's why I have those four words across one wall of the room where I meet with others for spiritual direction. God is always speaking if only we will be still and know.
In this noisy, busy world of ours, I think many of us need this encouraging reminder—whether we're struggling to hear God's voice or we've been listening to him confidently for many years. My hope with this blog is to create a community where we can be still, listen, and share together, encouraging one another on the journey of faith. I hope you'll join me and contribute your own words of encouragement through the comments. This space is not about having or sharing "answers" but offering companionship and loving support through insights and experiences that have proven meaningful and helpful on the journey. Because regardless of how long we've been walking and talking with God, we all need encouragement along the way.
I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you!
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.