The Daily Examen – Find God in All Things

The past year has definitely been one for the history books. The word ‘normal’ has taken on a new meaning and in the midst of all the is happening taking the time to reflect on all the blessings we have even in the midst of the global pandemic is a good practice. The Daily Examen of St. Ignatius is a great spiritual way of thanking God for the blessings we have in the midst of all that is happening, as well as asking his mercy for the ways we have sinned.

What is The Daily Examen?

The Examen is a method of prayer that helps us to grow in the understanding that we are constantly in the presence of God. It consists of 5 steps and usually takes about 15-20 minutes to complete.

In 1521 after suffering a serious injury to his leg in battle that left him bedridden, a young St. Ignatius began reading books on Jesus and the lives of the Saints. Within this time, he had his conversion, fell in love with Jesus and began living his life following the ways of the Lord. He went on to found the Jesuit order and write the well know Catholic classic, The Spiritual Exercises in which The Daily Examen can be found.

The Daily Examen by St. Ignatius of Loyola

5 Steps of the Daily Examen

The method of the Examen way of prayer, can open our eyes to see God and find him in all the moments of our daily lives and experience him right where we are. It embodies the examination of conscience that we use when going to confession which is based on the 10 commandments, while also asking God to open our eyes to the blessing and graces that he continuously bestows on us.

Step One: Ask for light

We pray and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us so that we can look back on the day not only through our eyes but through the eyes of God. We ask for like to become more aware of God’s presence in our daily lives. 

We also invoke the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Examen Prayer so that He can show us what we cannot see ourselves. St. Ignatius says about this phase of the Examen “[I] ask for the grace to know my sins and to rid myself of them.” 

STEP TWO: Give Thanks

Gratitude journals have become a big thing these days. But I often wonder if people know who they should be grateful to and what they should be grateful for. Often times we can be like the lepers in the gospel who didn’t return to thank Jesus after they were healed. Instead of being like the nine let us be like the one who returned. Every moment, every breath, every day and moment  of healing in our lives is a gift and opportunity to say thank you to God. 

As the psalm says “Your eyes saw…all the days ordained for me were written in your book.” After we have asked God for the light to see his presence in our lives and see the days as he sees them, let us give thanks for all the ways he has blessed us, from the greatest blessing to the least.

STEP THREE: Review the Day

Guided by the Holy Spirit, look back on the day. As they say some days are better than others. All days have their ups and downs, highs and lows. Moments where we have followed God and moments when we have failed to walk in his ways and followed his commandments. Remember he knows us through and through. 

STEP FOUR: Ask for Pardon

Our God is merciful. Full of love and compassion. He desires that not one of his children be lost. He gives us multiple opportunities to return to him. He wants to grant us His mercy but we don’t come to him. With a spirit of repentance and a heart of contrition in this step we go through the day and see where we have sinned and ask God for his mercy and forgiveness. Although we ask pardon for our sins in this moment, the teachings of the Church teach us the significance of confession for our spiritual lives. If during this step of the examen, if sins of a serious nature arise, freely chosen with full knowledge at your earliest moment go to confession, especially before receiving holy communion.

STEP FIVE: Pray for the Day ahead

In this step we renew our commitment to Jesus and following his ways, saying yes to him, and no to sin.  As scripture says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13 By ourselves we fail, with Christ we succeed. With hearts full of hope and faith in the father’s mercy, we ask for the grace and guidance to live according to His ways, to abandon our sins and go forward in a way that is pleasing to Him. To take up our cross and follow him. Everyday is a battle, part of the daily battle is saying yes to Jesus and no to sin. 

After praying through the 5 steps, you can end with an act of contrition as a closing prayer. 

When To Pray The Daily Examen

St. Ignatius desired that the members of His community pray the examen twice a day, once at midday and the other at the end of the day. If you have the opportunity and desire to pray the examen twice a day you can. This prayer is between you and God. But if not twice at least once a day at the end of the day before bed. 

What I love about the examen method of prayer it’s something that you can embrace all throughout the day, being conscious of God’s present in every moment of the day. Whether you’re in the grocery or waiting in  line at the bank. You can ask God to reveal himself to you in that moment. He is omnipresent.

To pray the examen in your daily life, it’s as simple as taking 10 – 15 minutes out of your day, using the 5 steps, and letting God be with you as you recall your day. 

Examen Journal

Tools for The Daily Examen Prayer 

The daily examen and examination of conscience is an ancient practice in the church, but there are lots of modern tools to help you in this beautiful method of prayer. 

Prayer Cards: Available from many websites in free printable formats, you can print the 5 step Examen prayer and use it whenever you desire to pray it.

Examen Journals: some people (like me) need a little more guidance and structure. Examen journals are now available with journal prompts to guide you through the 5 step examen prayer. The beautiful things about the examen journals is that you can refer to different moments and see where you were and where you’ve come. 

Examination of Conscience: While praying the examen you may desire to do a full examination of conscience to prepare for confession. There are multiple versions of the examination of conscience available for everyone based on their state in life, single, married etc. These are available on line and provide questions to help you.

Praying the 5 steps of the St. Ignatius Examen

The Daily Examen is not a new practice in the Church. Making an Examination of Conscience is actually a practice of the Church that has been around for years. Adding it to your prayer life is great way to see what God is doing in your life, how he has blessed you. Where we have failed him and how we can make reparation and do better. As time goes by you will be able to see God in all aspects of your life and then like St. Ignatius we can Find God in all things. 

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