The Ignatian examen is a way of prayerfully reviewing your day in the presence of God. It’s actually an attitude more than a method. It’s a time set aside for thankful reflection and for connecting your everyday life back to God.
There are five steps to the Ignatian examen, which only take about ten minutes to complete. It’s a simple way to see what worked and what didn’t in the day that’s behind you, and prepare for the day to come.
God bless you!
- Ask God for light. In this first step, I try to look back over my day through God’s eyes, not mine.
- Give thanks. Today I was given the beautiful gift of time—a whole day. This is where I express gratitude to God.
- Review the day. Now is my opportunity to look back on what this day has brought me, both joys and challenges… and how I handled them.
- Face my shortcomings. I made mistakes today, missed opportunities, didn’t live up to who I could be. So now I face up to that.
- Look to tomorrow. Finally, I ask God for strength and guidance in facing the day that will come tomorrow.
The examen is a powerful way of connecting with God and assessing “how things went,” which is always the first step in making things better!
St. Ignatius himself counsels us to have great desires: desires for the love of God, for intimacy with God, for a closeness with God. It is that desire that Father Greg Cleveland writes about in his upcoming book, Awakening Love:
The first important habit to acquire in making the examen prayer is that of interior listening, which involves reflection on oneself and one’s relationship with God. Because life often distracts us from such healthy introspection, we need to turn inward and hear God communicating with us in the depths of our consciousness.
When we pray the examen prayer, we should first call to mind the ways in which God has blessed us each day. This helps us cultivate a consistent spirit of gratitude. Gratitude correlates with our capacity to love. As we realize in thanksgiving how much God loves us in bestowing his many blessings upon us, we are moved to love God, neighbor, and self.
Gratitude is an antidote to negative thinking and complaining, which sucks the joy out of our lives. Taking time to focus on gratitude for God’s blessings contributes to our feelings of love and well-being and enables us to serve more faithfully.
After we reflect with gratitude, in the examen we ask for light to be aware of the movements of spirit during our day. For this second step of the examen we might simply make a petition, “Lord, let me see my day as you see it,” or “Lord, show me the events of my day that you want me to see.”
Our relationship to God is like a cord that binds us together, broken by sin and retied in forgiveness, which reduces the length of the cord and the distance between us. We actually draw closer to God in the process of reconciliation. Practicing this step of asking forgiveness in the examen helps us develop a greater awareness that the Lord’s mercy is constantly bestowed upon us.
The final step of the examen prayer is to propose amendment of our lives, relying on the grace of God. In the previous steps we may have discovered a particular pattern of sin, a place where conversion has to take place. This awareness could develop over a period of days or weeks and may become the focus of our ongoing conversion in life.
St. Ignatius is a wise guide, and his counsels can be as simple or as complex as we choose to experience them. Praying the examen prayer, if not every evening, then at least a couple of times a week, might be something that will change your life. Why not give it a try?
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