How to 'Examen' our LivesAndy Freeman - 23 Feb 2015

This lent we have released a season of Podcasts focussing on 'The Examen' prayer. If you are interested in exploring this powerful ancient form of prayer in more detail, read on...

U2 once sang that "some days are better than others".

Maybe you find it's easier to pray and praise God when things are going well and harder when your not sure what’s going on.

If you feel like that the practice of Examen may be for you.

There are many different ways to do Examen. This is the way St. Ignatius of Loyola practiced it.

Ignatian spirituality emphasises that we can find God in everything, that God is active and present to us in all things.

Examen is a sequence of 5 steps, practiced in order, each step builds upon and flows from the one before it.

Step 1: Become aware of God's presence

First, ‘become aware of God’s presence’ - take some time to remember that God is present with us in our everyday lives. He has been near to you and with you throughout the events of your day. Perhaps take an icon or a cross or image to remind you of His presence with you.

Step 2: Review the day with gratitude

Second, out of this awareness of God having been present with you, ‘review the day with gratitude’. What are you thankful for? What were the gifts of the day? What did you receive from others? What did you give to others? How has God been at work? Where was God? In conversations? In the actions of others? in the events of the day? In nature? Was He speaking? Perhaps He was shouting out His goodness in the morning sunrise? Or perhaps you saw Him in the kind actions of a friend?

Step 3: Pay attention to your emotions

After reviewing your day and noticing where God was at work with gratitude, ‘pay attention to your emotions’ St. Ignatius emphasised how through the movements of our emotions we can detect the presence of God. Reflect upon the emotions you felt throughout the day: anger? jealousy? compassion? boredom? joy? What might God be saying to you through these emotions? 

Perhaps there’s an area where you need to seek forgiveness. Maybe you were you frustrated by an unwanted interruption? or responded in anger? perhaps you resisted God’s nudging to offer someone help. Is there a way you could reach out to that person today?

Step 4: Choose one thing to pray for

Next ‘Choose one feature from the day and pray for it’. Maybe there’s something that particularly stands out to you? It may be a particular conversation or event, or an emotion you felt. Pray about it.

Step 5: Look to tomorrow

Lastly, 'look forward to tomorrow’. How do you want to live differently? How can you become more aware of God’s presence and promptings and the gifts of the day. Perhaps carry something with you throughout the day to remind you of God’s presence with you.

Statue of St Ignatius of Loyola - Naga City, Philippines

Tim had had a frustrating day...

...he had been running around very busy and yet two of the things he had been doing had come to nothing. To cap it all when he was driving home his car developed a fault and he had just finished a long and confusing phone call from the garage. Tim sat down to pray and he remembered what he had read about Examen.

Firstly he realised God was with him in the good and the bad of his day. He thanked God that he had a job and that he had a car and remembered that many others didn’t. He also reflected on the way the guy at the coffee shop had encouraged him as he bought his morning drink. He dwelt on all the frustration and anger he had felt and began to realise there was a disconnect. Tim decided to forgive those who’d let him down today and sent them text messages to say thank you for their time. As he reflected on the day to come tomorrow he felt a new sense of hope and of God with him.

All images are used by permission in accordance with commons copyright license terms: Image is a derivative of the images 'St. Ignatius of Loyola)' by Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ

Andy Freeman

Andy Freeman is 44 years old and a father to 5 beautiful kids.  He lives in Winchester, England.  Andy was part of the team that pioneered 24-7's first Boiler Room community and is a regular contributor to New Monasticism in the UK and abroad.  Andy works developing resources and supporting those in pioneering mission in the UK Church.  He's also a freelance writer.  Andy loves reading, movies, music, cricket (the sport) and Arsenal football club.  You can continue to dialogue with Andy on his twitter (@AndyFMusings).

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