Why practice the Examen?
We worship a God who is active and present in every moment of our day-to-day lives. We also live in a world that is filled with busyness, chaos, and all kinds of things that demand our time and attention. It is easy for us to become so distracted that we don't notice how God is moving in us, through us, and all around us.
But it doesn't need to be that way! God wants to connect with us. He wants to walk with us. He wants us to discern the leading of His Spirit and respond in obedience in the small stuff and in the big stuff. The Examen is practice that can help us become more attuned to God's presence and activity in our day-to-day lives.
What is the Examen?
The Examen is spiritual practice that helps us become more aware of and engaged in God’s activity in our lives – both in the big things and the small things. It is a format for prayer that was developed by St. Ignatius in the 16th century. Ignatius recommended that we do the prayer for 15 minutes, twice a day. But if that seems too daunting, don't let that stop you from getting started with this practice. Doing the Examen once a day or even once a week can be a great starting place to learning to recognize God's action in your life.
The prayer involves reflecting back on everything that happened over the course of the day, paying special attention to how God was moving and how you were responding. As we open ourselves up to the Spirit in this reflective practice, God will be able to speak to us about the gifts he has given us and the moments that we were living into our true identities as his children, as well as the situations where we experienced frustration, disappointment, or other challenges. It creates the space for God to do his work of transforming us from the inside out, as we take an honest look at our lives and receive His grace to move forward.
How do I practice the Examen?
1) Ask the Holy Spirit to lead this time of prayer.
Start by centering yourself in God’s loving presence. Take a minute to remind yourself that God is all around you, that he is closer than the air that is filling your lungs. Try sitting up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Take some deep breaths. Breathe in God’s love. His grace. His peace. His joy. Breathe out everything that is not of him – your anxieties, your fears, your anger.
It may be tempting to skip this step and rush ahead, but resist the temptation! This is not meant to be a cognitive exercise or a self-assessment. Centering our hearts and minds in God’s loving presence is essential to this practice.
2) Give thanks.
Take a few moments to express your gratitude for the gifts that he has given you over the course of the day – both big and small. Don’t rush to create the longest list that you can come up with. Instead, take the time to really savour these blessings.
3) Review your day.
Hour by hour, review the events that took place over the course of your day. Who did you see? What did you do? Spend more time focusing on significant moments, and pass more quickly over less relevant moments. When were you aware of God’s presence? Was there an instance when you were so focused on yourself that you missed an opportunity to be used by God? When were you at your best? When were you at your worst? Pay attention to and name the feelings that surface as your review your day in this manner.
4) Choose one or two feelings or situations to pray from.
Bring your feelings about the situation before God. Then take some time to be silent and listen to him. Receive his love, his guidance, his forgiveness.
5) Look ahead to tomorrow.
Scripture tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning. What did God reveal to you during this time of reflection that you want to bring into tomorrow? How is he calling you to move forward? Receive God’s grace and ask the Spirit to empower you as you look forward to the day ahead.