I tend to be suspicious of the ways smartphone apps promise quick and convenient fixes to complex problems.
As good as some apps can be in providing simple hacks for spirituality or convenient access to spiritual resources you wouldn’t normally carry around, I remain concerned that even spiritual growth apps can lead to unhelpful reliance on smartphones.
We may be better off just taking a few moments to sit in mindful silence before God or to pray a simple prayer, such as, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
Despite my reservations, certain spirituality apps have helped me through particular seasons when I’ve tried to make a place for a new practice. It just so happens that one of the best apps/practices is particularly relevant for a season of gratitude and reflection.
Practicing Gratitude with the Ignatian Examen
The Examen is an Ignatian spiritual practice that more or less asks where you can notice God in your day. It’s an opportunity to observe the good things and the bad things, and then it provides a chance to look ahead to tomorrow in prayer.
There are various apps and websites dedicated to the Examine, such as Ignatian Spirituality and Reimagining the Examen. It takes many different forms, and I have personally found it most helpful to combine it with writing since that’s how my brain works (I even wrote a book called Pray, Write, Grow).
Practicing Gratitude with the Examine App
The Examine app remains one of my most valued apps. By offering a series of prompts about what’s encouraging or discouraging from my day, I can practice the Ignatian Examen once or twice a day in order to take stock of my soul and to better direct my prayers.
It’s especially helpful for recognizing all of the good things in my life that I can be grateful for. To my surprise, something I may consider a blessing can turn out to be a burden or a detour from God. While other times a struggle or a challenge can reveal an opportunity to seek God or rely on God.
You can choose which questions to respond to, working through a more general overview and then asking specific questions about the encouraging and discouraging parts of your day. It ends with an invitation to spend five minutes in silence.
Most importantly, the Examen helps me to become aware of when I need to remain silent and become more present for God. When I skip the Examen, I lose my perspective on where I’m at in my week, and life can spin out of control quickly.
Taking Spiritual Practices with You
I still think it’s most helpful to set aside 10-20 minutes of silence and to quiet yourself wherever you are in order to become more aware of God. However, the spiritual practice of the Examen can help us take steps toward greater awareness of God’s blessings, offer clarity in our lives, and prompt us to pray a bit more with gratitude each day.