Last week, we looked at praying the Examen as a family. This week, I asked my dear friend and ministry colleague, Stephanie Coualtre Davis to write this guest post diving deeper into praying the Examen with teenagers. Visit Stephanie on facebook at @sclouatredavis and on her website, speakingstephanie.com.
Who would possibly want to take the risk of speaking for teenagers? Surely, not I. After 21 years’ experience of working with teens in ministry and living with two teens in my own home, I am sure that the iGen does not favor me describing their experience of life or God.
The iGen, the generation born into the internet, with tech savvy interfaces are trending toward less face to face interactions, loneliness, and a decline in mental health. These numbers have driven me into an overwhelming desire to speak for and with young people. St. Ignatius of Loyola, knight, Spanish mystic, and writer of the Spiritual Exercises speaks to the crisis of our time. More than 500 years ago, St. Ignatius of Loyola provided tools that meet many desires of our young people.
In my engagement with young people, I have learned that many young people do want to be accompanied on their understanding of God. When given the opportunity to speak about their relationship with God, though, young people often struggle to find the words to communicate and the rubric to experience God. Many young people have learned how to worship God, but lack the ability to communicate with God (maybe because we lack the same skill set).
In the ever expanding (yet intimate) world and universe, teens desire a close-up personal relationship with God. The practice of St. Ignatius’ daily Examen provides teens and young adults with a living, tangible, and personal experience of God.
In my practice of leading young people, I have discovered that Ignatian prayer naturally calls for reflection that must be done purposeful and with patience.
A basic Examen asks:
- Are you aware of the Holy Spirit?
- Where was God present today?
- Where was God not present today?
- What grace do you seek for tomorrow?
How do we cultivate these tools with teens? CULTIVATE REFLECTION.
- Practice reflection with your teen always and in all ways:
- In the car, at the kitchen table, when asking about school, when reviewing their day (literally all of the time).
- What is reflection? Reflection is giving serious thought to an idea or going below the shallow water into deeper feelings and thought.
- For example, when a young person is asked a question and responds simply with a one word answer, prompt them into a deeper description.
- Provide simple prompts like: Can you explain? Can you tell me more? Can you give me an example? What did that feel like?
- Be sure to try to get below the basic event into how this made your young person feel, think, and understand her or his life.
What is a simple Examen for Teens?
- Pause in a setting that captivates and allows conversation (like a car, a table, or even in a setting like texting).
- Ask your young person: What were the good things that happened today?
- Prompt for more clarity
- Cultivate by starting simple, and deepening after a couple months
- Ask your young person: What were the challenging things that happened today?
- Prompt for clarity
- Do not fix or judge your young person’s comments (save this type of instruction for another time).
- Ask your young person: “What do you hope for in tomorrow?” “What do you need tomorrow?”
- Maybe you can say, “I pray God will be with you in the next 24 hours”
- Or, say, “Can we pray the ‘Glory Be’ together?”
- Or, “what do you need from tomorrow?”
- Have them name the grace that they need for tomorrow: “I need patience with my friends,” “I need to be able to be calm for my test,” or “I need to not judge myself according to what they said.”
 Twenge, Jean M. IGen: Why Today’s Super-connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy– and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (and What This Means for the Rest of Us). First Atria Books hardcover edition. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2017.