We are exploring types of prayer in July and August here on Healthy Spirituality and today I am excited to discuss one of my “go-to” kinds of prayer – one that brings me closer to God and has transformed me spiritually.
The Prayer of Examen
What is the prayer of examen?
This prayer is a prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction. With this prayer we clearly discover God’s blessing in our ordinary life.
The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. It originated with St. Ignatius.
The simple steps of this prayer are:
- Quiet yourself. And allow yourself to relax into God’s loving arms. Some people imagine sitting on the sofa with God.
- Ask God to be present with you.
- Reflect on the past 24 hours, asking yourself several questions. My favorite questions to ask are:
- What am I most grateful for? What am I least grateful for?
- When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining from me?
- When did I feel God’s presence today? When did I feel the furthest from Him?
- End the prayer time with thankfulness to God.
This is my bedtime prayer, though it definitely could be use any time of the day. I love ending each day with gratitude. To be honest, I often fall asleep long before I get through all the questions. So I have used this format on retreat and in my journal when reflecting on the past month or quarter.
To be honest, when I first began this practice, I assumed I would have an endless list of things I was ungrateful for – those low points of the day that overshadow our souls and drag us into discouragement. I thought I would have to really dig through all the daily muck to find any nuggets to hold up in gratitude.
I was wrong.
The opposite occurred.
I look back upon my day and moments of mercy, glimpses of grace, and golden gems of goodness are easily found. Many times I can answer the second question and name the shadows that steal joy from my day, but surprisingly they dim and disappear in the light of gratitude.
This spiritual practice helps me refocus on God and His movement and presence in my life. The Prayer of Examen guides us to reflect and see God’s love in every ordinary nook and cranny.
Reviewing the low moments often points us to areas that need healing and further growth too.
Dennis Hamm called this practice “Rummaging for God: Praying backwards through your day.” Isn’t that a wonderful description? Here is an article he wrote about the prayer of examen.
You can read more about this type of prayer on this site.
Here is a beautiful meditative video to help you experience this prayer:
Have you used the prayer of examen? Tell us about your experience with God through this prayer.