the good way

Prayer of Examen

Session • Introduction • Devotional

The Prayer of Examen or ‘examination of consciousness’ was created by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). It has now been used by countless Christians ever since as a way to prayerfully review their day with God before going to sleep. Regularly using the Prayer of Examen helps us to become more aware of God’s presence throughout our day, brings our attention to the moments when we were less than Christ-like, and encourages us to pay attention to any nudges from God that we may have missed.

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

Become still and quiet. Invite the Holy Spirit to be with you as you review your day, asking him to bring clarity and understanding. Replay your day in your mind, much like watching a movie. Pay attention to what you are paying attention to as you remember events, people, places, thoughts and emotions.

2. Review the day with gratitude.

In God’s presence, notice the gifts and delights of your day. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and all the other seemingly small pleasures. Express gratitude.

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?

God will most likely show you some ways in which you fell short. Repent of anything that was less than Christ-like and receive his forgiveness afresh.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

Ask the Holy Spirit to draw your attention to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may be positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Reflect on this and allow prayer to rise up from this moment, whether in praise, petition or intercession.

5. Look forward to tomorrow.

Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Ask him for the grace to notice his presence more tomorrow. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

Doing the Prayer of Examen once will be helpful but doing it regularly will become transformative. This is not about checking off a box, it is simply talking to Jesus like we might talk to a friend at the end of our day.

“There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly. Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” — Frederick Buechner

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