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The Examen Prayer

Short examen prayer card: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/17

Longer version: http://www.loyolapress.com/prayerfully-reviewing-your-day-daily-examen.htm

Purpose

To prayerfully reflect on the day’s events, and to be more aware of signs of God’s presence and grace during the day.

Introduction

The examen is a prayer of reflection on the day’s events, various interactions, and emotions. Calhoun describes the examen as “a practice for discerning the voice and activity of God within the flow of the day. It is a vehicle that creates a deeper awareness of God-given desires in one’s life.”[1]

The examen is associated with St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556).[2] St Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises, describes the purpose of the examen being “to seek and find the divine will” in our lives.[3]

A short summary of the structure of the examen is to spend time in prayer going through the following steps:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

2. Review the day with gratitude.

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

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

5. Look toward tomorrow.[4]

The examen give us the insight and the freedom we need to respond to God’s leading in our lives rather than react unreflectively to the flow of daily events.[5] With God’s presence guiding our reflections, we put may see events and situations from a different perspective. When we have issues we are wrestling with, or seeking discernment over, the examen can be a great tool to provide clarity. Though Gallagher cautions that the clarity we seek may emerge only after some days, weeks, or months.[6]

The examen may be a personal prayer, but the effect of gaining a different perspective, especially where there may be interpersonal conflicts, has the effect of blessing others as well. If, in our diverse callings, we pray the examen, we will become increasingly a source of such blessing for each other, for the Church, and for the world.[7]

Practice

Take some time to get comfortable, breathe deeply in and out 3 times, and then spend 2 minutes in silence inviting God’s presence. The guide below comes from: Loyola Press, A Jesuit Ministry.[8]

Stillness: Recalling God's Presence

Relax in God's presence in your favorite prayer place and posture. Be aware of how God shows his love for you in all his gifts to you. Be thankful as you think of God the Father's love, the love of his Son Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and to help you to look honestly at your actions this day and how you have responded in different situations. With the Spirit's inspiration you can recognize what draws you close to God as well as what pulls you away from God.

Gratitude: Expressing Thankfulness

Review your day and give thanks to God for his gifts. Try not to choose what to be thankful for but rather to see what springs to mind as you reflect. Think of the concrete details of your day—the aroma of coffee brewing, a smile from a co-worker, or a beautiful rainbow. Recall the gifts that God has given you that you can share with others—your ability to help in a crisis, your sense of humor, or your patience with children. Pause and express your gratitude to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Reflection: Looking Back on Your Day

Again review the events of the day and notice how you acted in the many situations in which you found yourself. Recall your feelings and motives to see whether you considered all of the possibilities and freely followed God's will. Ask yourself when you were conscious of God's presence. Think about opportunities you had to grow in faith, hope, and charity. When we think about why we did or did not take advantage of these opportunities, we can become aware of how we might change our actions in the future. Be grateful for the occasions when you freely chose a course to help others. Perhaps you let a shopper with a small order go ahead of you in line or did not join in a conversation critical of a co-worker. These are examples of responding freely as God wants us to. When we reflect on the times we did or didn't act with God's grace, we can be more sensitive to developing habits of positive responses.

Sorrow: Asking for Forgiveness

After you have asked for the Holy Spirit's guidance in recalling and reflecting on the actions of your day, spend time talking with God or Jesus. Express sorrow for the times you failed to follow his direction and ask him to be with you the next time you encounter a similar situation. Give thanks to God for the grace that enabled you to follow his will freely. Feel the sorrow and gratitude in your heart as you converse with God.

Hopefulness: Resolving to Grow

Ask God to help you as you look forward to a new day tomorrow. Resolve to cooperate and trust in the loving guidance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Conclude the day's prayerful review with the Lord's Prayer.

By prayerfully reviewing your day, you will experience the difference it can make in the way you live. If you make a habit of practicing the Daily Examen, you will grow closer to God in your thoughts and deeds and will be free to choose to follow him.

Remember

The prayer of the examen introduces us into those depths of the soul, into that sacred space “where waits the Spirit”—Timothy Gallagher[9]

Additional resources

Gallagher, Timothy M, O.M.V. The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today.

 


[1] Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines, 52.

[2] Gallagher, Examen, 21.

[3] Gallagher, Examen, 169.

[4] Ignatian Spirituality: A Service of Loyola Pres. The Daily Examen. Last updated in 2014. Accessed March 28, 2015. www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/

[5] Gallagher, Examen, 172.

[6] Gallagher, Examen, 172.

[7] Gallagher, Examen, 172.

[8] Loyola Press: A Jesuit Ministry. Prayerfully Reviewing your Day. Last updated in 2013. Accessed March 28, 2015. http://www.loyolapress.com/prayerfully-reviewing-your-day-daily-examen.htm

[9] Gallagher, Examen, 172.

 
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