Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

Practicing The Examen

This five-step Daily Examen is based on the one described by St. Ignatius Loyola in his “Spiritual Exercises,” perhaps the most influential book about prayer ever written.

Step 1. Become aware of God’s presence.

Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you — a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding, to show you where He was at work in each situation.

Step 2. Review the day with gratitude.

Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights.

Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive and what did you give? Pay attention to small things — the food you ate, the sights you saw and other seemingly small pleasures. God is there in the details.

Step 3. Pay attention to your emotions.

One of St. Ignatius’ insights was that we can detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day.

Did you feel boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying to you through these feelings?

In this reflection, God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Be sure to make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications as well.

Are you frustrated? If so, perhaps this means that God wants you to consider a new direction in some area of your work.

Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you could reach out to him/her in some way.

Step 4. Choose one feature of the day and pray about it.

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling, positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant.

Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer that it provokes to arise spontaneously from your heart, whether it’s intercession, praise, repentance or otherwise.

Step 5. Look toward tomorrow.

Present your “holding word” to God.

Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up.

Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer.

Seek God’s guidance. Ask Him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for His protection and help. Ask for His wisdom, too, about the questions you have and the problems you face.

Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God.

Talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus.

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