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Prayer of Examen

“Fruit in Lent”

Candlelight by Susan Phillips

Ignatius of Loyola advised his followers to engage in the prayer of the Examen, sometimes called an Examen of conscience or consciousness. This prayer was intended as a way to notice when one is and is not obedient to God, and an aid to consciously notice God’s presence in all of daily life.

This practice involves a simple retrospective look at the past day. In prayer one remembers the day or week backwards, from ending to beginning. This interrupts the forward narrative thrust of our lives and our emotional drive towards conclusion that we normally live in. 

Prayer of Examen helps us to remember isolated moments that catch our attention and remember the thoughts, feelings, sensations and images that accompany them. Moving back in time causes us to give each moment the same amount of attention, even if some hours or days were more eventful than others, and notice the meaning in the memory. 

After prayerfully reviewing the past, one reviews this time again, specifically looking for the sense of God’s presence, any fruits of the Spirit or any sensations one has come to associate with the holy. This is also for noticing the opposite: a failure to attend to the holy, a sense of being turned from God or insensitivity to the Spirit working in your life. The things noticed can evoke confessions or thanksgiving. After prayer of examen, it is good to rest in contemplation with God, savoring what has happened in the light of God’s grace. 

A Time for Weekly Examen

Use the approach outlined below for a weekly prayer of examen today. These are guidelines, but there’s no specific approach or length of time to complete a prayer of examen. Even 15-20 minutes is enough time. 

  1. Prepare your heart and mind. Center yourself by lighting a candle or taking a few deep breaths.  Allow yourself to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Review the week with gratitude.  Think backwards through the events of your week, starting with this moment back to the very beginning of Sunday. Note the joys and delights. Think about the people you interacted with and what you shared with each other.  Don’t forget the little pleasures, even something as simple as a really good cup of coffee!  After you’ve reviewed your whole week, thank God for these experiences.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.  Notice the points in your week where you felt strongly. What is the Holy Spirit telling you through your feelings?  
  4. Select a part of your week to pray over.  What moment of your week stands out most to you?  It can be good or bad.  Lift up a prayer of gratitude, intercession, repentance, whatever the case may be.
  5. Pray for next week.  Ask God to guide you through the new week’s challenges. Turn your anxieties over to God and pray for hope.

Adapted from “The Daily Examen,” Duke Divinity School,

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