The Prayer of Examen, or examination of consciousness, is a form of contemplative prayer developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) as a part of his work on the Spiritual Exercises. This prayer is intended to draw us into deeper awareness of God’s presence and movement in our everyday lives. Through daily reflection on life’s big and small events, our thoughts, actions, and emotions, things we did to others and things done to us, our intimacy with God grows and we become increasingly aware of God’s grace, work, and leading in our lives.
The prayer of Examen is typically practiced once a day, most commonly at the end of the day. The method of the practice reviews the day through the following five steps:
- Become aware of and rest in the presence of God
- Take a deep breath. Remember God is with you and God is in you. God is closer than the air we breathe. Take another breath. Breathe in the presence of God. Trust and rest in the presence of God.
- Review the day with gratitude
- What are you thankful for in the last twenty-four hours? Review the day and pause to give thanks to God for each gift.
- Review the day in God’s presence
- Think through the specific events of the day. Review hour by hour, paying careful attention to your emotions along the way. When did you feel a strong sense of love? Did you experience joy? What about excitement? What made you angry? When did you feel sad? What scared you? Engage your emotions. Where is the presence of God in your emotions? Remember God is with you.
- Which moment, emotion, or experience stands out? Is there something God is inviting you to explore more intentionally? Is there moment, emotion, or experience you feel resistance toward? Choose one and talk to God about it. Speak and listen. Is there something you need to do or stop doing? Ask God for direction. As you leave this prayer, what action will you take as a result?
- Look forward
- Look forward to the next twenty-four hours. What is coming in the day ahead? What feelings are coming to the surface? Where do you need to be especially aware of God’s presence? Pray for the day ahead.
- Pray as you Go App – There is guided Examen prayer for adults and children. I love using the Examen for children as a bedtime ritual with my kids.
- Rummaging for God: Praying Backward Through Your Day by Dennis Hamm, SJ
- Consciousness Examiner by George Aschenbrenner, SJ
- The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for our Lives Today by Timothy O. Gallagher
- A Simple, Life Changing Prayer: Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen by Jim Manny