Prayer of Examen
“The Prayer of Examen”
Prayer by Richard Foster
How do we practice the Prayer of Examen?
We practice it by turning inward. Not outward, not upward, but inward. “Your prayer must be turned inwards, not towards a God of Heaven nor towards a God far off, but towards a God who is closer to you than you are aware.” said Anthony Bloom, Christian writer and monk.
With examen we bore down deeper and deeper, the way a drill bores down into the bowels of the earth. We are constantly turning inward in a very special way. I do not mean to turn inward by becoming overly introspective or in hopes of finding inner strength or an inner savior who will deliver us. This is a vain search!
It is not a journey into ourselves that we are undertaking but a journey through ourselves so that we can emerge from the deepest level of the self into God. As Saint John of Chrysostom notes, “Find the door of your heart, you will discover it is the door of the kingdom of God.”
“But how,” you may ask, “is this turning inward accomplished? Are there activities of body, mind, and spirit that help us?” Oh yes, there are many. Let me give you a few of the more common.
Journal keeping is a highly intentional reflection on the events of our days. It differs from a diary by its focus on why rather than who and what. External events are springboards for understanding the deeper workings of God in the heart. One special value of a journal is the record that it keeps— a personal Ebenezer¹, if you will.
Many other inward examens can be done. One summer I went outside each evening at about 10:00 PM to the basketball hoop in our driveway. Alone, I would shoot baskets while inviting God to do a spiritual inventory on the day. Many things would surface to memory. Sin was there, to be sure: an angry word, a missed courtesy, a failed opportunity to encourage someone. But there was also the good: a small obedience, a quiet prayer that seemed to do so much, a word fitly spoken. I only practiced this for one summer, but it was one way of experiencing the examen of consciousness.
Precious Savior, why do I fear Your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid of what may surface. Even so, I invite You to search me to the depths so that I may know myself— and You— in fuller measure. Amen.
1 a commemoration of divine assistance
This Prayer of Examen takes about fifteen minutes, and involves three parts. Find a place where you can relax and be comfortable. You may want to light a candle to remind you of the presence of God with you.
- Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment from the past week for which you are most grateful.
- When were you most able to give and receive love?
- If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
- Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so good.
- Breathe in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.
- Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment in the last week for which you are least grateful.
- When were you least able to give and receive love?
- Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult.
- Relive the feelings without trying to change or fix it in any way.
- Take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are.
- Give thanks for whatever you have experienced. If possible, share as much as possible of these two moments with a friend. It may also be helpful to record your thoughts in a journal. Rereading these notes will help you see God’s grace at work in your life even when things seemed impossible.
A Prayer for Weekly Examen From The Upper Room Ministries