The Ignatian Examen Prayer, or the Daily Examen, is a simple method of prayer and reflection that helps in discerning the presence and activity of God within your daily life.
The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church, and most widely known through St. Ignatius Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, lived and taught the deep conviction that God is active, personal, and present to us. He told people that if they could not pray in any other way, at least pray the Examen. It is said the Examen is "the Heart of Jesuit Spirituality," and Jesuits have always practiced it twice a day. Today, many Christians practice the Ignatian Examen Prayer around the world.
What is the Ignatian Examen Prayer?
Basically, the Examen is a practice of taking a few moments to review the past day. It is a reflective meditation that allows you to recognize the graces and blessings, as well as the challenges and lessons of your day. It is a discipline of noticing the activity of God in you, your life, and your world. It provides a way of growing awareness of God’s presence, and helps us reflect on our God-given desires. The heart of the Examen is make space for your soul to connect with God through contemplation and reflection.
I love doing the Examen for a few minutes before I go to bed. Others find that another time during the day works best. The beauty in the Examen is that you can do it for 5 or 10 minutes, or as short or long as you are able.
As you practice the Examen Prayer, you will learn about yourself and about how God is working in your life. It can be a great starting place of deepening your soul's connection with God.
How to Practice the Examen Prayer
Below is a version of the five-step Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.
1. PRESENCE: Become aware of God's presence.
Find a quiet moment to reflect on the past day. Open your palms and invite God to enter into the reflection with you. In the company of God, look back on the events of the day. Allow your mind and soul to be drawn to particular memories from the day. What was most life-giving? What was most life-draining? When did you have the deepest sense of connection to God, others, and yourself? When did you have the deepest sense of disconnection? Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
2. GRATITUDE: Review the day with gratitude.
Consider your day in the presence of God, and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day's gifts. Pay attention to the small joys. God is in those details. Savor them. Express your gratitude to God.
3. PAY ATTENTION: Pay attention to your emotions.
We can find the presence of God in the currents of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Anger? Joy? Compassion? Resentment? What is God saying to you through these things? You may have fallen short or done something you regret. Make note of those sins. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God is guiding you into a new direction? Does your worry possibly mean you could consider sharing your concerns with a trusted friend?
4. PRAY: Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
Ask God to guide you to something from your day that is particularly important to him. It may involve a feeling - positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with a person or a vivid moment of joy. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Examine it. Dialogue with God about it. Listen for what he wants to say about it. Allow the prayer to spontaneously arise from your heart - whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
5. GRACE: Look ahead to tomorrow.
Look toward the next day, and ask God for grace for what is to come. Pay attention to the feelings you have as you think about tomorrow. Are you apprehensive? Peaceful? Excited? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Ask God for guidance and help. Pray for hope.
As you go through the Examen, allow it to be a conversation with God as your friend.
How can you make the Examen a part of your day?
You can work the Examen into each day. You may want to find a regular time to pause and reflect with the Examen in the evening. Or you can do it in the morning, as a reflection on the previous day.
As you practice the Examen, you may want to keep a journal of your reflections. Many people who practice the Examen consistently see patterns begin to emerge. Maybe you will see God's work in several particular areas of your life. Or perhaps you will find that certain activities lead to feeling particularly connected with God, or disconnected from him. If you want to process your experiences further with a spiritual director, I'd love to work with you.
ACTION & PRACTICE
Use the Examen Prayer as you prayerfully reflect with God. Create a bit of space to do it daily or weekly, and pay attention to what God wants to say to you.
Here is a free printable PDF version of the Examen. Feel free to print it, and use it in your prayer times.
If you want to join me, I will be doing the Examen prayer for 30 Days of Abiding on July 1-31. Let's practice it together, and see how God works in us!
For more on the Examen and Ignatian Spirituality, go to Ignatian Spirituality.
If you want to find other ways of making space for God, read How to Create Space to Listen to the Voice of God (plus free printable prayer guides).
As you practice the Examen Prayer, what do you notice? What questions or insights do you have? Please share in the comments.
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Aloha! I'm Larissa, a spiritual director and Enneagram coach. I help others in their pursuit of God and their God-given calling.
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