Spiritual Practice: Examen – looking back on the day prayerfully

More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged a kind of prayer-filled mindfulness in what has become known as the Daily Examen. The Examen is a way of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to recognise God’s presence and to discern God’s direction in our lives. There are many different examples of the Examen but they all follow the same basic pattern. The Examen is usually prayed at the end of the day. It’s very simple to do. 

Be still. Consciously put yourself into God’s presence and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your prayer.

Give thanks to God for all the things for which you’re grateful today.  Allow your mind to wander as you reflect on the ways God has blessed you. Allow big things and small things to arise: for example, the gift of faith, relationships and friendships, things in the natural world, things you’ve seen or heard, touched, smelled or tasted.

Review and recognise failures. Look back at your day and ask God to show you the moments when you have failed in big ways or small. Take a sobering look at the mistakes you’ve made, at negative feelings, bad habits, or ways you have hurt others or been unkind to yourself.

Ask God to forgive and heal you and help you to live differently. Ask for the healing of any harm that might have been done, for help to recover from any pain or hurt, so that it won’t grow and cause further harm. Ask for wisdom to discern how to handle difficult people, relationships or situations in the future. Ask for the ability to be kind to yourself and others.

Pray about the next day. Think over the things of tomorrow. Imagine the things you’ll be doing, the people you’ll see, and any decisions you’ll be mulling over. Ask for help with any moments you foresee that might be difficult. Especially ask for help in moments when you might repeat anything harmful or hurtful.

You may like to finish with the Grace or the Lord’s prayer

For those with smartphones, there is a free App, Re-imaging the Examen suitable for both iPhones and Android. There are a number of books on the Examen should you wish to dig deeper. There are also special Examen journals where you can record what you learn each day – or you could jot things down in a plain notebook if you think you’d find this helpful.

Rev’d Dr Anne Morris