I love being able to find new ways of praying and paying attention to my daily walk with God. So over the last year or so, I have been working on discovering new avenues of spiritual practice. When I heard Krista Tippet’s interview with Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, I was intrigued by all the different ways that he said Jesuits practice their spirituality. One of the main Jesuit practices is the Daily Examen. Here is how Fr. Martin describes it:
"The Examen, or examination of conscience, is a quick prayer to help you see where God was active in your day. Usually done for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of a day, the prayer was popularized by St. Ignatius Loyola in his classic text The Spiritual Exercises." Use these five easy steps to pray the Examen every day, and soon you’ll begin to notice God’s presence more easily.
1. Presence: Remember that you’re in the presence of God in a special way when you pray. Ask God for help in prayer.
2. Gratitude: Recall two or three things that happened today for which you are especially grateful. Savor them. Then thank God for these gifts.
3. Review: Review you day from start to finish, noticing where you experienced God’s presence. Notice everything from large to small: from an enjoyable interaction with a friend to the feel of the sun on your face. When did you love? When were you loved?
4. Sorrow: You may have sinned today or done something you regret. Express your sorrow to God and ask for forgiveness. If it’s a grave sin, pray about seeking forgiveness from the person offended, or the sacrament of reconciliation.
5. Grace: You may want to return to a meaningful part of your prayer and speak to God about how you felt. At the close of the prayer, ask for God’s grace for the following day.
Over time, as you pray the Examen, you’ll notice God’s presence in the moment, rather than just at the end of the day. You’ll see that your whole day can be a kind of prayer. Soon you’ll discover that you’ve become, as Jesuits like to say, a “contemplative in action.”
What I especially appreciate about the Examen is that it includes gratitude and self-reflection in one place. I find that both are extremely important in my walk with God. We all know the benefits of gratitude for our mental, physical and spiritual well-being. For more information and thoughts on gratitude, check out our blog here:
Besides gratitude, the Examen invites us to notice God’s love and presence in our lives and allows for God to come in and heal those parts of ourselves that need His forgiveness and grace. What a wonderful way to grow in our walk with God!
Fr. Martin also has a podcast called The Examen that guides you through this daily process with a new meditation introduced weekly. This is especially good for those of us who enjoy being guided in our meditation and prayer. I encourage you try this ancient, but new-to-me practice!