About the Examen
We believe that God is always present and at work. God is personally present to us and at work for our good every moment of every day. This means that the primary place of our discipleship is our actual lives. We don’t just grow spiritually when we are at church, doing Bible studies, or other churchy things. If God is always present and at work, then every moment is drenched in kingdom possibility. God is always knocking on the door of our lives.
But the question is...
- Are we paying attention?
- Do we notice where God is at work in our lives?
- Are we awake to God’s presence and activity?
The Prayer of Examen is a spiritual practice that helps us wake up to God’s activity. It’s a tool that helps us become divine detectives—discovering what God is up to in us, through us, and around us by increasing our Spirit-sensitivity. First developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the Prayer of Examen helps us become spiritually alert and attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives.
At its heart, the Prayer of Examen provides a way of reviewing your day in the presence of God, allowing Jesus to reveal his activity and speak into the concrete situations and circumstances of your life. While The Examen can be done at any time during the day, it is most often done toward the end of the day when you have more to review.
There is no pre-determined length of time for the Prayer of Examen. A typical Examen takes about 10 minutes, but can go as long as you like. You can choose the length depending on your own schedule and the Spirit’s leading. Simply find a quiet place where you can be free from interruptions or distractions for the purpose of deep reflection. A pen and paper can also be helpful to capture anything significant that surfaces.
The Prayer of Examen
Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
Get comfortable. Let your body relax and allow your mind to quiet down.
Take a few deep breaths and then ask God to make his presence known to you. Be still. Take some time to sit and soak up God’s presence.
Do your best not to rush this first step.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be attentive to God’s presence.
Rest in the assurance that Jesus longs to be with you and connect with you. If you are finding it difficult to focus or concentrate, try leaning into Scripture as you become aware of Jesus’ presence.
- Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10
- Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. – James 4:8
- Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest. – Mark 6:31
Begin to look back and review your day with a grateful heart.
Ask God to reveal his grace, all of the gifts he has given you. Notice the big things (life, safety, love) and the small things (a compliment, an encouraging interaction, a good night of sleep). Slowly review your day noticing and naming the things you can be most thankful for in your life.
- How did God meet your needs today?
- Where did you experience love today?
- Where did you experience enjoyment?
- What makes you most thankful?
As you replay these experiences and encounters from your day, express gratitude to God for each one of them. If you are using a journal, feel free to write them down.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights. – James 1:17
Our action-packed, fast-paced, social media-filled lives often prevent us from being truly present to ourselves, to others, and to God. We often miss significant moments where God might have been trying to get our attention. This is why the practice of review is so incredibly helpful. It helps us pause and notice, attend and learn, and re-enter life in a new and more transformed way.
Having reviewed your day with gratitude, now ask God to lead this time of review.
Like watching a movie, begin replaying your day hour by hour. In your imagination, recall each significant moment. Pause and linger over any moments or interactions that feels significant while moving past those that seem less important.
- What other gifts did God give you today?
- What was the best part of your day? The worst?
- What was particularly frustrating or challenging?
- When did you fail to act or miss an opportunity?
- When did you act and respond faithfully to God?
- Where might God want to affirm or correct you?
Throughout this time of review, try to maintain a posture of compassionate curiosity. When you notice anything negative, try not to condemn yourself. Rather, get curious about what was going on underneath the surface knowing that it is the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). Simply ask for Jesus’ forgiveness and then receive his mercy and loving-kindness.
If you are keeping a journal, write down anything significant that God reveals.
One of the primary characteristics of a growing disciple is spiritual responsiveness. Disciples of Jesus are responsive to Jesus. Now that you’ve reviewed your day in God’s presence and under his guidance, it’s time to respond in some way. Based on what God has showed you, how might he be inviting you to respond?
- You might ask for forgiveness.
- You might seek further direction.
- You might change a habit or practice.
- You might write a thank you note.
The key here isn’t to find the perfect response, but a faithful one.
Even an imperfect response can be a faithful response when you are doing your best. Try to be as specific and concrete as possible. Vague or ambiguous responses are often hard to execute, so the more specific the better.
If you are keeping a journal, write down how you will respond.
We then encourage you to circle back to notice anything else you learned.
Close by thanking God for the gift of his presence, anything he revealed to you, and naming your desire to respond faithfully to all that he has invited you into.