An Ancient and Enduring Discipline

By David Lyons

Photo courtesy of Joel Bengs

Photo courtesy of Joel Bengs

Will The Navigators last 500 years? If so, it will be because we really do live our motto: To Know Christ, to Make Him Known and to Help Others Do the Same.

The Navigators is similar to another Christian organization—the Jesuits—that has lasted nearly 500 years. Although we are fundamentally different than the Jesuits in important ways, we share a passion for spending daily time alone with God.

I became fascinated with this connection a few years ago when our team read Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World, by Chris Lowney. What Navigators often call a “quiet time,” the Jesuits call “The Daily Examen.”

For several years I’ve been practicing The Daily Examen as part of my daily quiet time. I recently noticed how this ancient practice is rooted in an even more ancient set of guidelines for spiritual health: Philippians 4:4-8.

There are five elements to The Daily Examen, as I practice it:

Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the day’s events in the company of the Holy Spirit. Ask God for eyes to see His fingerprints. Philippians 4:4-5 says to “rejoice in the Lord” because “The Lord is near.” I cultivate awareness of God by journaling sentences that begin with phrases such as, “I see You discipling me,” and, “I see You protecting me,” and, “I see You . . .” As I write, I begin to see the day through His eyes.

Review the day with gratitude. We can walk through each day in the presence of God and focus on its joys, delights and gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? Pay attention to small things, such as the food you ate, the sights you saw and other seemingly small pleasures. Philippians 4:4-6 says to season our prayers with thanksgiving. The weather in my soul is consistently transformed by making a list of things that I’m thankful for.

Pay attention to your emotions. We often detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. What is God saying through these feelings? God may show you some ways that you fell short. Repent of those. But look deeply for other implications. Does frustration mean that God wants you consider a new direction? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way. This practice has helped me realize how my work is often driven by anxiety. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of Christ which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I meet with my Wonderful Counselor every day, and He untangles my emotions.

Choose one feature of the day and pray about it. As you review your day, ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something that He thinks is especially important. It may be a significant encounter with another person. Allow prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude. The Message renders Philippians 4:6 as follows: “Instead of worrying, pray!” It will be settling to commit that concern to God.

Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for the next day’s challenges. Pay attention to your feelings as you survey what’s coming. Allow these feelings to turn into “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” as you “let your requests be made known to God” (verses 6-7). As you do, listen for His guidance and write it down. This is crucial for following Jesus through each day as His disciple, as His apprentice.

I’m not too concerned about whether The Navigators (or the Jesuits) are around 500 years from now. But I hope that 500 years from now there will still be “navigators” navigating the seas of life with a passion to know, live and become like Jesus every day. That will last.

David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He serves our 5,000 staff in more than 100 countries by coaching leaders and leading change. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.