When, in the last year, have you seen God’s hand at work? When and where have you felt his presence? When have you felt joy? Have there been times of sadness or desolation? The following practice is called “The Examen”. It is based on steps described by St. Ignatius Loyola in his “Spiritual Exercises,” perhaps the most influential book about prayer ever written.

As you reflect on 2023, walk through the following steps, allowing God to reveal himself in your life in a new way.

Step 1: Become aware of God’s presence.
Look back on the events of the year (day) in the company of the Holy Spirit. It 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.

Step 2: Review the day with gratitude.
Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your year (day) in the presence of God and note its joys and delights.
Focus on the gifts. Look at the work you did, and the people you interacted with. What did you receive and what did you give? Pay attention to small things — provision, sights, and 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 some of the feelings you experienced this past year (day).

Did you feel boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? Joy? What is God saying to you through these feelings?
In this reflection, God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and ask for forgiveness from God. Is there someone that you need to ask forgiveness from? Or offer forgiveness?
Are you frustrated? If so, perhaps this means that God wants you to consider a new direction in some area of your life.
Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you could reach out to him/her in some way.

Step 4. Choose one feature of the year (day) and pray about it.
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something 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 entire self 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 God for forgiveness, protection, wisdom and help.
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 Examen with an honest conversation with Jesus..

The Examen is most frequently practiced on a daily basis. Now that you have reflected on the past year, try practicing the Examen for a few minutes at the end of each day. When we pay attention to God’s movements in our lives, we stand amazed at his power, comfort, and unending love.

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