Evening Practices to Cultivate Creativity

"It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening" —Psalms 92:2

Evenings are intentionally designed. In Genesis 1, God crafts containers of time out of timelessness. Each of the seven days of creation is summarized in this descriptive pattern: “And there was evening and there was morning.” In the Jewish tradition, days follow this format of night, then day.

In this “evening first” model, our priorities are reoriented. Our days do not begin with work, but at the dinner table with our families and friends. We don’t barrel headfirst into our days with the intention of capturing, conquering, and seizing. We begin our days in community, in reflection, and in rest.

In a production-focused society, this sequence can seem unthinkable. We are often obsessed with “starting well.” Whether picking the perfect cup of coffee, beating commute traffic, or maximizing our number of completed tasks, we all chase a “great start to our day.” There is nothing wrong with starting well, but our daily rhythms are fractured when we ignore an equally important value—finishing well.

Finishing Well

If we take the Jewish day structure seriously, finishing well is actually beginning well. Rather than choosing evening practices of escape, inactivity, or consumption, we can choose into reflection, relationship, and resetting. Despite spending entire days ministering to huge crowds and disciples, Jesus used his evenings to rest, retreat, and be with his Father. His ending was his beginning for the next day of ministry.

“After sending [his disciples] home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)

The relationship Jesus has with his Father is profoundly compelling. When Jesus invites us to abide in Him in a similar way, our daily habits must be reimagined to reflect this new state. Evening routines differ across lifestyles, but we finish our days well when we include some sort of quiet departure into conversation with God.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola developed a reflective technique of prayer and discernment called The Daily Examen. This reflective prayer involves debriefing our days with the Holy Spirit and focusing on emotions, discernment, and God’s presence. Priest Dennis Hamm refers to the Examen as looking back through our day and “rummaging for God.”

The Daily Examen follows a simple five-step format:

Become aware of God’s presence.
Review the events of the day, asking God to bring clarity to his presence.

Review the day with gratitude.
Walk through your day with God, focusing on the gifts, joys, and delights.

Pay attention to your emotions.
What feelings did you experience today; what is God saying through them? When today did you feel far from God? When did you feel close to God?

Choose one feature from the day and pray from it.
Ask God to point you to something He finds important in your day, and pray from it.

Look toward tomorrow.
What feelings come up when you consider tomorrow? Seek God’s guidance.

By implementing a reflective practice like this, you can sift through the day’s events, lift up cumbersome or stressful things to God, and grow in intimacy with the Holy Spirit. When intentionally resetting after a day of active accumulation, we gain access to a meaningful finishing to our day.  

Words—Daniel Sunkari
Photos—Bryan Ye-Chung