This is an ancient Christian prayer practice of reflecting over the experience of the day to identify how God was working through it and how we are called to respond. St. Ignatius of Loyola offered a particular technique for the Examen as part of his Spiritual Exercises.
1. Become Present to God
At the end of each day, or twice each day, set aside time to quiet yourself and come into God's presence.
4. Review Your Day
Replay each part of your day in your mind, being aware of how you felt, who you were in contact with, how you responded, and where God was working.
2. Recognize the Gifts In Your Day
Reflect on everything you're grateful for since you last did the Examen. All is gift from God... say thank you.
5. Look Toward Tomorrow
Ask Jesus for forgiveness where you need it, and for help and guidance for the next day as you listen for God again.
3. Pray For Grace and Insight
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember what was important today and recognize how God has been moving in your life.
“Rummaging for God” is an expression that suggests going through a drawer full of stuff, feeling around, looking for something that you are sure must be in there somewhere. I think that image catches some of the feel of what is classically known in church language as the prayer of “examen.”
When our eyes are open, all of us can see God everywhere, in people, places and things, in ideas, actions and chance meetings. Examining the day for traces of God’s presence is a Jesuit’s twice-daily duty, but the discipline can enter into anyone’s routine. With practice, it becomes more a respite from hectic everyday life than a burden, a way of being more than a particular effort or task. These exercises ask, “Where is God?” in any particular experience. Ignatius would suggest we request a hefty dose of God’s aid each time we undertake such a self-review.
The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today
Timothy M. Gallagher
The examen prayer is a transforming and ever-growing practice in Christian spirituality. In The Examen Prayer, Fr. Timothy Gallagher draws from real-life stories and his experience as a spiritual director to explain the core principles of the examen prayer: What is the examen and how can we begin to pray it? How can we adapt it to our individual lives? What are its fruits? (Amazon)
A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer: Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius Loyola's Examen
For most people most of the time, prayer is hard. It is especially difficult—not to mention unsatisfying—when people experience it as formal, dry, and repetitious. But what might happen if you discovered a simple prayer that changed all that? What if you discovered a prayer that changed you? In A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer, Jim Manney introduces Christians to a 500-year-old form of prayer that dramatically altered his perception of prayer and the way he prayed. The prayer is the examen, which St. Ignatius Loyola developed for the purpose of nurturing a reflective habit of mind that is constantly attuned to God’s presence. What makes the prayer so powerful is its capacity to dispel any notion that God is somewhere “up there,” detached from our day-to-day tasks and concerns. Instead, the examen leads us into a relationship with a God who desires to be personally caught up in the lives of those whom he created. By following five simple yet powerful steps for praying the examen, we can encounter the God who, as Scripture tells us, “is not far from each one of us”—the God whose presence in our lives can make all the difference in the world. (Amazon)
Sacred Story: An Ignatian Examen For the Third Millenium
William M. Watson, S.J.
How and why did St. Ignatius Loyola develop the Examen prayer? What is it supposed to accomplish for those who practice it? Why do people choose to forgo this discipline that has proved to be invaluable and essential to spiritual growth and the discernment of spirits over the centuries? What are the contemporary cultural crises confronting today's would-be Examen practitioners provoking distrust, fear, or dismissive attitudes towards it? How can an Examen faithful to Ignatius original method be modernized to address the mindset of today's Christians? This book in its three parts takes a new approach to answer these questions. It provides a new analysis on how Ignatius' spiritual Examen disciplines were developed, the challenges inherent in practicing them, and a dynamic new reading of the Examen called Sacred Story. This book will give you the spiritual tools you need for a practical, daily prayer discipline that incorporates principles of spiritual discernment. (Amazon)
We highly recommend the excellent Daily Examen page on IgnatianSpirituality.com, which has many articles, videos, and audio files in support of the examen:
- The Daily Examen (IgnatianSpirituality.com)
A flyer formatted as 1/3 page front-and-back, with practical tips for performing the examen.
Header photo by Noel Feans (Creative Commons License).