Prayer of Examen
Based on St. Ignatius’s Prayer of Examen
About the Prayer of Examen
The Examen, Examination of Consciousness, is a method of prayer developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Community of Jesus (Jesuits). The Examen is adapted from a larger collection of formational exercises Ignatius developed to help people examine their lives in light of Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection and continual engagement with the world. When you pray the Examen, you are called to spend time remembering that you are a child of God, a recipient of the love of Jesus Christ. Then, you are called to examine yourself: how have I been faithful to the way of Christ throughout my day? How can I grow in my walk with Christ tomorrow?
Step One: Sitting in the Presence of God
Begin by recognizing the presence of God. Remind yourself of God’s presence with you. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be with you and to be attentive to God’s presence. To become more focused, it might be helpful to repeat a simple phrase during this time, like “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Try to spend several minutes in silence as you open yourself to the living presence of Christ.
Step Two: Gratitude
If the only prayer you say in your entire life is “Thank you,” wrote Meister Eckhart, ”that would suffice.” Take time to think about your day, what causes you to be thankful? Look back over your day, hour-by-hour, and recognize what reasons you have to be grateful. Focus on these experiences and encounters, helping your mind and spirit centre on the goodness and generosity of God.
Step Three: Examination
Over-packed lives can rob us of the opportunity to learn from the past, to see how yesterday might inform today. “Where did the time go?!” we ask ourselves, often struggling to remember what we did just a week ago. Here we can benefit again from taking time to look back over the past 24 hours. By intentionally reviewing our interactions, responses, feelings and intentions, we can avoid letting days speed by. We can pause to learn more about ourselves and about God’s activity in our lives.
Try to look back objectively as you review. Rather than interpreting, justifying, or rationalizing, the intent is to observe and remember. Allow your mind to wander through the situations you’ve been in and to notice details. The questions in this exercise should help you bring specific experiences to mind.
“Think of it as a movie playing in your head,” writes James Martin, S.J., in The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. “Push the play button and run through your day, from start to finish, from your rising in the morning to preparing to go to bed at night. Notice what made you happy, what made you stressed, what confused you, what helped you be more loving. Recall everything: sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, textures, conversations. Each moment offers a window to where God has been in your day.”
When or where in the past 24 hours were you cooperating most fully with God’s action in your life?
When were you resisting? Do you need to seek God’s forgiveness?
Step Four: Look Forward to Tomorrow
Having spent time in remembrance, we are called to respond by looking with longing toward the future as we grow in the love of Christ. Spend time reflecting on tomorrow. How can you live more faithfully as a disciple of Jesus tomorrow? How might you open yourself to experience the love of God in an even greater way?
Is there something specific you should be especially attentive to?
What special or ordinary events will you face tomorrow?
Does anything there need special grace?