The Prayer of Examen: Finding God in All Things
Many people come to a place in life where they want to experience God more than at church, in worship, or in their devotion time. You may be in a season where you feel God drawing you closer to Him — desiring to know God more intimately.
The prayer of examen is a tool that can help you see God in the every moment, every day of life. One of the benefits of practicing the examen at night, as you review your day, is that you become familiar with how God interacts with you. Prayerfully playing back your day — fast forwarding through your memory — you will begin to notice times you felt close to God or far from Him. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you can hone in on specific situations when something made you upset or brought you great joy.
In Opening To God: Lectio Divina and Life As Prayer, David Benner says, “Notice those times when you failed to see the face of Christ in someone you encountered, or you responded out of fear or personal interest rather than love.” Conversely, also notice those times when you were at peace or filled with joy.
As you practice the Examen, you begin to notice, in real time, when you are leaning into God or pulling away from Him, enabling you to give thanks or repent and move on in your day.
Again Benner says, “St. Ignatius, the developer of this prayer review, urged his disciples to practice it every day, even if they did not have time for any other form of prayer. Its importance is that it helps us cultivate a discerning heart. By means of it, we learn to align ourselves with God, moment by moment.”
Richard Foster explains the Examen this way: “In our busy, hectic world, it is easy to run from one thing to the next without much thought of God’s presence and purpose in our daily life. The Prayer of Examen emerged in the sixteenth century as a way to help believers recognize instances of God’s grace in the course of the day just ended. By learning to give attention to God’s grace in our lives, we come to know and love him more and more.”
There are five steps or movements to the Prayer of Examen. I found the following explanation, taken from a Bridgetown Church podcast, helpful, so it is what I use to guide me as I learn to do it on my own. However, I have read a lot about the Examen and noticed people explain it differently. If something in the following steps is unclear or you would like another way of thinking about it, I suggest you google Prayer of Examen. Reading multiple perspectives can provide a greater understanding.
5 MOVEMENTS TO THE EXAMEN
- Give thanks for God’s benefits. It’s easy to forget God’s benefits. There is a wide range of things to be grateful for — everything from the sunshine to the rain, etc.
- In practicing gratitude, we are learning:
- To let go and give thanks.
- To see how good our life actually is. Not the life that our culture or society tells us we should have — or the life we want to have — but the life we actually have.
- To slow down and savor the goodness of God.
- In practicing gratitude, we are learning:
- Pray for light. Beg the Spirit of God to help you open your mind to see reality clearly. Ask God to fill you with the Spirit, open your mind and imagination, and block the enemy’s voice. To hide you in the Spirit for the next few moments.
- Review your day. Notice where you were happy or sad and what made you feel that way. Ask yourself:
- What compulsive thoughts did I come back to over and over?
- What were the emotions, good or bad, attached to that?
- Where did I feel close to God?
- Where did I feel separated from God?
- Where was I living in the flow of God’s love?
- And where was there a blockage to that love? Our anger and anxiety reveal to us our attachments.
- Repent. As you review your day, you will find times when you sinned -when you became your own God, your source of goodness, and turned away from His love. This is God coming to you in love. We need to see ourselves as we actually are under the loving gaze of Trinitarian compassion. Ruthless self-awareness and the overwhelming sense of God’s compassion must go together. If you hold one without the other, you are destined to crumble under its weight.
- Renew your heart’s desire to take up your cross and follow Jesus. Renew your pledge to follow and apprentice under Jesus. End with surrendering to love.
Adapted from the series “31 Days of Prayer”
Part 2: Finding God in All Things – Bridgetown Church
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