I first heard of the Examen when I read Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster. He said, “In the examen…we prayerfully reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of our days to see how God has been at work among us and how we responded” (p. 28). I discounted it as “too formal” for my free-flowing prayer style. Sadly, I wasted many years of growth by not at least trying it out!
Years later, It was introduced to me again, and I was willing to give it a try. Here is my first one:
Gifts received throughout the day:
Review of my day: (I examined my day from rising to going to bed, but I won’t include it here.)
I hope that this blog will be a “well” of life-giving, rich resources that grow you closer to God. Every month, I will introduce a new resource for you to try for the month. This month, it is Examen Prayer (#Examenprayerchallenge on Instagram).
Where did I feel most alive and responsive to God? (Consolation) – Connecting with someone I have been praying for and continued connection for another person. I am most alive when I see answered prayer, especially when I pray with others.
Where did I feel most dead and unresponsive to God? (Desolation) – I honestly cannot think of anything. (I got better at discerning this as I grew in this practice.)
Imagine one practical thing that I can commit to doing the next day that will express my love for God and others – Make Challah bread and listen to who God would have me give it to.
Update the Next Day – I followed through, and God blessed big time. I got up early to make the Challah bread not knowing who I would give it to. I thought that I might give it to the training group that was coming over that morning, but he told me to take the bread to the mosque where about ten ladies gathered at noon. They had a little teaching time, and then they brought the bread I had brought out with other treats. The leader said, “Oh, in Syria, giving bread means giving love. Did you know that when you thought to bring it?”
I told her, “No, all I know is that I prayed and asked God what I could do to express love today, and he told me specifically to bake bread and would show me who I was to give it to. And he told me to bring it to you.”
The ladies in the mosque squealed with delight!
I continued the Examen through the remainder of that year, but I quit until ten months later when God woke me up early one day and said, “Read A Simple Life-Changing Prayer.” I devoured this book about Examen Prayer in one sitting, convinced by the end of the importance of praying it daily, and I have not looked back. The author, Jim Manny wrote that he was NOT good at doing it at the END of the day and did it the following morning. That was my biggest hang-up. I would start it at bedtime and fall asleep! Mornings are better for me, and I like being reminded of my life-giving consolations and deadening desolations from the previous day as I head into the Exercises for the new day. But doing it at night leads to a very peaceful sleep. Do whatever works for you. Ignatius said, “Let’s do the doable!”
Through the Examen, I see the beauty of looking at my feelings of consolation (life-giving, full of God’s light) and desolation (deadening and devoid of light) daily rather than waiting to sort things out after I had stuffed them and then had a crisis. Finding him amid these feelings has been so eye-opening and helpful for growth and transformation. Whether you are a “feeling” type person or not, it is good to get in touch with God-given feelings so that you can get to those God-given desires underneath! By the way, finding God in all things is another pillar of the Exercises and Ignatian spirituality.
The most important thing is to pay attention to God’s presence in your life and be open to his consoling presence showing up in unexpected, “non-spiritual” places. When doing an Examen with a retreat group, I mentioned that one of my greatest experiences of consolation from the day before was playing Ultimate Frisbee on the beach with them. One woman said, “That never would have been something that I would have considered as a consolation.” I explained that the beautiful setting of God’s Creation, playing with people I love who are made in God’s image, and moving the body he gave me were all things that brought great joy, thankfulness, and exhilaration to my heart. God’s presence was all over that. She had a new perspective. God is everywhere, and the Examen helps us to be aware of his presence in every moment of every day, not just in our structured prayer times. God is constantly trying to get our attention. Keep noticing him everywhere, and you will begin looking at the world in an incarnational way which is another pillar of the Exercises and Ignatian spirituality. This simply means believing that God can be found in the everyday events of our lives, even in an Ultimate Frisbee game on the beach!
Read my guide to Examen Prayer below or download it HERE. Try the Examen Prayer for a week, and let me know how it goes!
This can be done in the evening as a review of your current day or the following morning as a review of the previous day. Do what works for you. Be flexible and “do the doable.”
This prayer takes 10-15 minutes each day and is so helpful for growth. If you prefer being guided through it, I suggest the Reimagining the Examen app on iTunes or Google Play. It has a variety of themes matching your current state of being like “I’m Drained” and “Am I Free or Unfree?” Also, doing this with a soul friend can be life-giving. My husband and I do a weekly Examen together on Saturdays.
God finds Us: An Experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, p. 61
Retreat in the Real World, p. 277
“A Prayerful Review of My Day.” Handout by Trevor Hudson from the Renovaré Book Club