Prayer of Examen
“Soul Attunement: Attending”
Sacred Companions by David Benner
Probably the most valuable of the many gifts I have received from the Ignatian approach to spiritual formation is its concept of the examination of consciousness — or as it is usually described, the examen.
The examen is a time of prayerful reflection on one’s experience of the presence of God over a recent period. It is called an examination of consciousness because its goal is the transformation of consciousness by increasing your awareness of God’s presence. If attentiveness to God’s presence is prayer, the examen is a discipline that moves us closer toward the goal of prayer without ceasing. When blessed by God, this discipline holds the possibility of transforming our experience— both conscious and unconscious.
The examen is usually done at the end of each day. I begin by imagining myself in the presence of Jesus. In dialogue with Jesus, I thank Him for the day and his presence throughout. Praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I ask for the grace to see the day as God sees it. This is often best done by imagining myself watching the day with Jesus, letting it float by like a moving train or a fast-forwarded video. During this process I let Jesus stop the train (or video), allowing Him to interrupt the stream of consciousness and focus on whatever parts of the day warrant reflection.
I find fragments of my day coming to mind as I do this. The goal is to notice how aware I was of God’s presence in each experience. How conscious of God was I at that moment? If I was not aware of His presence, what was blocking that awareness? If God seemed absent, can I now discern His presence? This should be followed by sorrowful repentance for failures to see God and gratitude for times of awareness of Him. Finally, I end with a prayer for help in being more aware of His presence during the next day, and I journal any discoveries made during the examen.
Like any spiritual discipline, this simple exercise can be demanding. Although it should not take longer than fifteen minutes it can easily be fifteen minutes of struggle with concentration. If this occurs follow each period of wandering with a gentle repetition of a prayer that Jesus would control what thoughts about your day come to mind. Believe that whatever comes to mind about the day is what you should examine.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
A Time for Weekly Examen
Adapted from “The Daily Examen,” Duke Divinity School, https://sites.duke.edu/Theconnection/2014/08/13/the-daily-examen/