The Examen is a window of time for prayer, where we reflect upon how we encountered others in God in the everyday. It is a simple daily prayer, with God, who offers us gifts of transforming grace. Also called the prayer of Consciousness or the prayer of Reflection in which we take a journey into the recent past, to savor the present, and to look with hope towards the future.
A PRAYER OF GRACED AWARENESS
The Examen is a prayer of graced awareness in reflecting upon encountering God’s presence and action in our everyday: to see the day as it was through the eyes of Christ; to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading direction for us; and to respond to the Father’s loving invitation for renewal and rejoicing.
“Examen comes from the Latin word that means both an examination and an active weighing or judging something. It’s as old as Socrates instruction to “know thy self.“
It is for us to notice more of God’s activity in their daily life, and to grow in virtue and holiness day by day. And to know thy self.
It’s a practice of regular self-scrutiny. Ignatius took this ancient tradition of prayer of reflection and made a way to experience God, as well as to assess our behavior.
The Examen is not a liturgical prayer, devotional prayer, intercession, or prayer with scripture. It’s not contemplation or a prayer which is emptying our mind of images, words, or ideas. The Examen is the kind of prayer that lives in our hearts to God who does not stand apart from our lives.
Each moment offers a window into where God has been in your day. The daily examination is rather a question of asking:
How was I drawn to God today - by who and what I encountered?
How did I respond to God’s loving a presence today?
God is always present with and in us, paying detailed attention to us, waiting for us. Yet we do not consciously sense or feel His presence all the time or often notice His actions in our lives. Our soul and body - we are physically and spiritually in touch with God, always. Yet we are distracted, and at times our hearts and will are not always directed towards what are the most loving action or thoughts. God is patiently waiting for our attention, there always, desiring to help.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Rev 3:20
The Examen as A Time with God
To See all Things New in Christ
The Examen as Experience – Reflection - Gratitude
All Things to Become New in Christ
Experience alone does not teach us much; it is when we reflect on our experience that we really begin to learn (Jesuits of South Africa). To know thyself.
We take a journey into the recent past, to savor the present, and to look with hope towards the future.
A daily prayer of gratitude that has the capacity:
To transform our lives
To come to know thy self
o To grow in virtue and holiness - day by day
The Examen as a fullness of prayer - ACTS
Adoration – begin with looking at God, looking at you. The gaze of love is adoration.
Consolation and Contrition – Collect the day, savoring the graces, blessings and mercy.
Thanksgiving – responding in gratitude for our life and all His gifts of the day.
Supplication, Sitting, Silence - Petition and Union
What do we need help in for our commitments from what He just revealed to us and what help do we need for tomorrow.
Sitting in silence which circles us back to Adoration naturally flowing into a unitive contemplative state to be a ‘contemplative in action’.
The Examen as Contemplatives in Action
All are New in Christ – putting on the eyes and mind of Christ
what we think, is what we do and feel
what we feel, is what we think and do
what we do, is what we think and feel
To desire to be contemplations in action for the greater glory of God.
To grow in holiness, day by day.
The Method has 5 Movements
1. Gratitude – Thanksgiving for the day’s graces and gifts.
2. Desire –For the Holy Spirit to reveal the day through Christ’s eyes; and for what He most want you to take note of.
3. Review – Who and/or what did you encounter? Discern the Holy Spirit’s leadings. How did you respond?
4. Reflect - Share your thoughts and feelings about what came up. Listen for the Spirit’s guidance. Commit to take action.
5. Request - Share your concerns about tomorrow, ask specifically for what you need.
How to Pray the Examen
1. Offer thanksgiving for the day.
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the day through God's eyes and for what is most important to take note of.
3. Review and reflect. Share your thoughts and feelings about what come up.
4. Ask for help to know what God would want for you.
5. Share your concerns about tomorrow and ask specifically for what you need.
There are many examples of the Examen to use on different apps or in books
Practical Notes for the Examen
· Allow God to show you the day. Let Him bring up what He wants to show you.
· Review the section on what does consolation and desolation feel like, and the Rule #2.
· Listen for the prompts within your intellect, will, and affect – those interior movements.
· Look at your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions through God’s eyes.
· Was your head, heart and hands aligned?
· Remember not all the thoughts are your own; it’s what you pay attention to and move with is what counts.
· Best to do this when you are not tired.
· Depending upon if you are a night person or a morning person. Some people will reflect early evening, or part of their night prayers, or part of your morning offerings.
Handing on the Fire
“Since the God we seek is a busy God, we cannot let our interior life and prayer float above our daily life in our lifeworld. Our spiritual life roots in an experience of God freeing us from our sin so that we can present our bodies and everything we experience in a day, lifelong as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is our spiritual worship…It’s about prayer and it’s also about our experience when we cross the threshold between prayer and everyday life. Good fruits are rooted in prayer and self-examination are actually loving works and good habits. The good fruit is the work of head, heart, and hand all three…it’s the dynamic interplay of the head the heart and the hand. For as the pope has pointed out, what we do is what we think and feel; what we feel is what we think and do; and what we think is what we do and feel. Ignatian Spiritual Direction serves the whole person” (Joseph Tetlow SJ, page 30-31 Handing on the Fire).
Different Examples to Pray the Examen
St. Ignatius noted there were 5 steps to the prayer. You may find several different examples in books and especially in this app for your smartphone. https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/reimagining-examen-app/
Begin in stillness and silence (and possibly solitude
1. Thanksgiving: Express gratitude for the graces received — the gift of yourself and all of who and what you encountered this day.
2. Request: Ask God to reveal the day to you, as to see it through God’s eyes.
3. Review: Examine the day in the particulars. What happened?
4. Reflect: How did you respond? When were you more of your true self? When not?
5. Seek & Rest: Ask for guidance and insight, and hope for the future.
End this time with a simple prayer or the Our Father.
The Examen of Consciousness: of the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality Fairfield University
Lord, I realize that all, even myself, is a gift from you.
Today for what things am I most grateful?
Lord, open my eyes and ears to be more honest with myself.
Today, what do I really want for myself?
Lord, show me what has been happening to me and in me this day.
Today, in what ways have I experienced your love?
Lord, I am still learning to grow in your love.
Today what choices have been inadequate responses to your love?
Lord, let me look with faith and hope towards the future.
Today, how will I let you lead me to a brighter tomorrow?
The Daily Examen: A prayerful experience of God.
How to Pray the Examen - Longer Version
Experience alone does not teach us much, it is when we reflect on our experience that we really begin to learn. The Examen can help us see God’s hand in our daily lived experience. It’s a simple prayer that has the capacity to transform our lives by helping us become more aware – of the gifts.
Preparation: Settling in. Let God know you are there.
Settle yourself to direct your attention towards God. Find a place of quiet and comfort.
Imagine placing yourself into God’s loving hands, thus letting Him know you are there just the two of you together.
“Here I am Lord”
1. Ask for God’s Assistance
Whatever condition you are in - tired, concerned, overwhelmed, rushed - ask for the grace to be there without distractions.
· Ask God to help you be honest as you look back on your day
· Ask God to show you the day through His eyes
Request for help: ______________________________________
2. Review & Give Thanks for the Gifts of the Day
For Ignatius the first and most important step in any spiritual journey is Gratitude. So we look first to remember and to name the blessings.
Let the day wash over you.
· Look at the day, look at the work you did, look at the people you interacted with. What did you receive from them? What did you give them?
· Pay attention to small things and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
· Notice any joys and delights, and focus on the day’s gifts. … be specific.
Savor what God shows you.
What were the blessings today?______________________________
3. Review the Day Again - To Reflect - To take Notice
God communicates not only through insights and thoughts (such as in reading scriptures) and also through our feelings, emotions, desires, attractions, repulsions, and moods - all are called ‘interior movements’. Remember feelings are neither positive nor negative, it is what you do with them that raises moral questions. These ‘movements’ tell you about the direction your life is going
Notice moments when you felt more fully alive, more at peace, joyful, happy, comforted, whole, or your best self, and moments when you felt closer to God. Allow some of these moments to come to mind. These are times of consolation.
Pick a moment that you now feel most grateful for and stay with it, savor it. Notice how God is drawing you to more of those experiences. Take some time to give thanks to God.
Now, remember anything that you are less grateful for or experiences that caused you to feel drained of energy, frustrated, irritated, upset, sad, alone, isolated, distressed or less than your best self.
Bring these memories before God; ask God to bring you the healing you need.
Pick one strong thought or feeling and ask God to help you understand where it came from and where it was leading you.
What was my strongest thought or feeling today ?_________________________________
Where was it leading me? Towards God? Away from God?
4. Ask for Direction
Asked the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important.
o It may involve a feeling - positive or negative.
o It may be an encounter with someone or a moment of delight or a sense of peace.
o Or it may seem something that’s rather insignificant.
What is God asking of me in this one aspect of the day?_____________________
5. Look Forward to Tomorrow with Hope
Ask God for the grace to be with you tomorrow.
Pay attention to the feelings that surface as your survey what is coming up.
Are you doubtful, cheerful, apprehensive, full of delightful or anticipation?_________
What do you think you particularly need for tomorrow: strength, energy, patience, courage? ____
Ask for that gift of grace.
What do you need God’s help with? _______________________
End with a closing prayer.
Glory Be and close with Sign of the Cross or another
The more you practice the Examen way of prayer, the easier and more clear it will become shedding light on the path that God has dreamt for you.