Sorrow, when it enters our day, often comes without warning. Uncomfortable and painful, it can be attached to regret, betrayal, or grief. Can it, at the same time, be beautiful?
The Examen prayer is a meditation practiced by the ancient Stoics and then later popularized by Saint Ignatius and the Jesuits. Within the presence of our compassionate and loving God, we look back on a day or a season to discover God’s movements, and his graces and nudges. In the course of the prayer, he also invites into genuine sorrow.
As we begin this prayer, we ask for wisdom and discernment to bring to mind and see, through God’s lens, what our day or season has held. We notice where God has been present and moving in or around us and where we can be grateful for his work and invitations in our lives or in other people and events.
And then we move into a prayer moment where we lean into and embrace sorrow. We allow God to give us an intimate view into our heart, our actions, and our thoughts so we might clearly see anything that did not honor him or serve others well. It is a time to bend our hearts toward him to ask his forgiveness and receive his grace.
In beautiful sorrow, we experience God’s presence and his gift of mercy. Then with humility, renewed vision, faith, and courage we look forward to the new day coming.
As I write this, we are in the season of Lent, which offers many opportunities for us to lean into whole-hearted and vulnerable prayer before God. Good Friday, by nature of the events it commemorates, invites us into a prayer of sorrow as we remember the events of Jesus’ crucifixion that came before his glorious resurrection.
Join me in a prayer of beautiful sorrow?
Begin by reflectively reading John 19. Then ask God to lead you in a prayer of sorrow. Feel free to use the scriptures and prayers included below as a starting place.
So they took Jesus, and he went out,
bearing His own cross, to the place
called the Place of a Skull,
which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
There they crucified Him.
John 19:17-18 (NAS)
In sorrow I honor that you, Lord, were not silent in response to our betrayal and transgressions. You sent your Beloved Son and through his outstretched arms on the cross, you loved us.
While your heart toward us is one of compassion and restoration, I cannot rush past sorrow. Instead I bend my heart toward you as I consider the depth of your agony and the completeness of your work on the cross.
For God so loved the world
that He gave His one and only Son.
In sorrow I recognize all that separates me from your presence. You know my choices that cause me to wince in remembrance or regret. I do not shrink back, for it is through sorrow that you lead me to the fullness of your restorative forgiveness
I acknowledge my betrayal, my sin. Please forgive me.
When Jesus had received
the sour wine, he said, "It is finished,"
and he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit.
In beautiful sorrow, I bring all that I am to you, Jesus. You respond with poured-out grace and love that says, "It is finished."
The steadfast love
of the Lord never ceases;[a]
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.