The Prayer of Examen
The Prayer of Examen is a daily spiritual exercise developed by St. Ignatius Loyola. The prayer is designed to help followers of Christ to find God in all things and to discern God’s will. You can pray the Prayer of Examen anywhere – in your car, at home, in the shower. Some people pray Examen two times a day: once around lunchtime and once before going to bed. There are five steps to the Prayer of Examen.
Begin by finding a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. The prayer should take between 15 and 20 minutes.
First, recall that you are in the presence of God. No matter where you find yourself, you are God’s creature in the middle of his creation. We are always in God’s presence. Try to be especially attentive of God’s presence all around you. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with love and to recall your day with love.
Second, recall your day with gratitude. Remember the simple, small pleasures of your day: the smell of your first cup of coffee, the laughter of your children, a smile from a friend, a good night’s sleep, or beautiful weather. Take stock of what you have received and given this day. How have you used your gifts and talents to bless others and bless God today? Thank God for all of these things. Thank him for his presence in the big and small things in your life.
Third, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. In the next step, you will review your day. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to reflect on your day clearly and honestly, that you will learn and grow as you reflect. The Holy Spirit will give you the ability and freedom to look at yourself honestly, without condemnation.
Fourth, review your day. This is the longest of the steps. Recall the events of your day and your actions and thoughts in it. Allow the day to play back like a movie in your mind. The purpose of this step is to draw out the positive and negative aspects of your day. Notice habits and patterns that emerge throughout the day. Discern where you felt the most alive, and where you felt drained of life; when you felt loved, and when you felt alone; when you felt whole, and when you felt fragmented.
As you recall your day, ask God to show you where you stumbled or failed today. (Were you angry or bitter? Did you lash out at someone? Did you ignore something you shouldn’t have?) Don’t dwell on these things or try to find a resolution. Simply identify them and move on.
Next, ask God to show you when you loved today. (Did you help someone today? Did you take time to spend with your loved ones? Did you offer a word of encouragement to a friend?)
Fifth, speak with Jesus about your day. You can picture yourself sitting next to him, talking to him over a cup of coffee. If there was something in your day that you don’t feel good about, tell Jesus about your disappointment. Ask him for his guidance and presence if you face a moment like that again. You don’t have to be sad or upset about these moments – just thank Jesus for forgiving you and restoring your life. Remember all the good moments of your day and thank him for being with you in those moments. Give thanks for God’s grace.
Some people end with the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Once you've prayed the Examen a few times, you will find your own rhythm and method. Cover all five points daily with freedom to dwell more on one than another.