The Daily Examen is a powerful prayer developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola. It encourages us to look at our day and reflect how God is speaking to us in our experiences and emotions. The Examen helps us see how God is moving in our lives. It is especially useful for discernment.
This article describes the steps in the traditional Examen, but this prayer can also be adjusted to focus on a specific area, such as how to look at my life in terms of my strengths and weaknesses. Or the Examen can be used to seek a way to heal a difficult relationship. Seasonal versions of the Examen can also be found, such as a Lenten Examen or an Easter Examen.
When praying the Examen, it is important to find a quiet place to pray where you won’t be interrupted. Being comfortable is also helpful. Journaling the Examen is also useful, as you might want to go back later and see how God has been moving you gently in one direction or another.
Generally, the Examen will take ten to fifteen minutes to complete. This makes it a practical way to integrate prayer into your daily life.
How to Pray the Daily Examen
Start by becoming aware of God’s presence.
Start with the Sign of the Cross and remember you are in the presence of your Creator. Slow your breathing. Quiet your mind. Invite the Holy Spirit to join you. Enjoy this moment.
Review Your Day with Gratitude
Think about your day, starting at the beginning. Notice anything which you enjoyed. Linger in those moments and appreciate them. Express your gratitude to God for these blessings.
Nothing is too small to notice. Perhaps you had the chance to say hello to someone you haven’t seen recently. Or you enjoyed a nice cup of tea. Maybe the sunshine on your face felt good. All of these things are gifts from God.
Be Aware of Your Emotions
Notice your feelings as you remember your day. If something evokes a strong response, good or bad, make a note of it as you step through your memories. God made you as a creature with emotions and He speaks to you through these. A strong reaction might be God prompting you to take further action in that area of your life.
Choose One Part of the Day and Pray into It
Pick one experience from your day which stands out. This will often be one of the things which evoked a strong response. Pray into this moment. Ask God what He is trying to tell you. Is He asking you to take action? Maybe you should pick up the phone and call someone. Perhaps you need to learn to be patient and wait.
This is the part where “daily” comes in. If you are finding a pattern in what you are focusing on each day, then then God might be telling you that this area of your life needs some attention. You might need to offer a prayer of repentance or intercession for a friend. Or you might need to just be grateful and aware of how blessed you are.
Look Forward to Tomorrow
Think about tomorrow. If there is something you anticipate being challenging, ask God to accompany you when that moment arrives. If you have been moved by your prayer to do something different in your life, pray that God gives you the strength to do that. If you feel moved to, then make a specific resolution.
Conclude your prayer with the Sign of the Cross. It might also be appropriate to say the Our Father or another prayer.
This graphic from Busted Halo shows how to pray the Daily Examen using a visual format.
Praying the Daily Examen is a way to pause from our busy lives and seek God’s presence. We look at the day, try to discern what is good, and seek to correct that which is not.
This is an excellent practice for all, young and old. My older sons attend Jesuit high school, and they take a few minutes every afternoon to practice the Examen. It is just a way of pausing and remembering why we are here – to love and serve God.