The Examen Prayer

July 16, 2020

What is the Examen Prayer?


The examen prayer is a prayer recommended by St. Ignatius of Loyola and discussed in Fr. Timothy Gallagher's OMV book The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives which I am currently reading.  In it Fr. Gallagher presents the Examen prayer as a five step process that will help us develop relationship with God in our everyday life.

Essentially the examen helps us to examine our day with God and develop an awareness of God in our lives.  For me, the examen goes hand and hand with the first fourteen rules of Ignatian discernment because it really does teach us how to see the movement of the good and bad spirits that Ignatius talks about in the rules.

Praying the Examen


The steps of the examen as presented by Fr. Gallagher are, in paraphrase:

Transition.  Become aware of the love God has for you.

  1. Gratitude.  Notice the gifts God has has given you over the course of the day and thank him.
  2. Petition.  Ask God for insight and strength in order to make your examen a fruitful work grace.
  3. Review.  Review your day with God.  Look for the ways God has stirred your heart and the thoughts He has given you.  Look for those ways and thoughts that were not of God. Review your choices in response to all of this and the other choice's you made throughout the day.
  4. Forgiveness.  I ask for forgiveness and healing and allow God to remove your burdens.
  5. Renewal.  Make plans with God about specific ways you can live tomorrow in accord with His loving desire for your life.
Transition.  Conclude with prayer and an awareness of God's presence in your examen.

While these steps will get you started Fr. Gallagher's book on the examen can provide some very valuable insights well beyond the scope of this post.

My First Experience with the Examen


I first prayed the examen just before bed on Tuesday July 8th -  not long after I'd an insight about how I needed to focus more on my internal reality (see Spiritual Combat & Outward Attachment) in order to be discerning.

As I entered into prayer, I found it surprisingly hard to recall the events of the day.  This showed me how very un-examined my life actually is!  But I was able to remember most of what had happened.

I talked / prayed about how good I had felt about working in the garden earlier that day, how happy I had been to help a family member in a minor way and how grateful I was for a certain conversation.  I saw how God was in all those things and regretted that I had not been aware of it at the time. 

I  expressed regret for wasting time on unimportant things, skipping the rosary and being impatient with others. 

I talked about the insight God had given me earlier that evening - about being too focused on exterior things -  and began to understand that it was my own spiritual lack of awareness that had made it necessary for God to make what seemed like an obvious move toward me in the first place.

This insight seemed important.  And I realized how unfocused and dull I really am, in a spiritual sense, and how being focused outward is definitely a part of the problem.  

I asked for forgiveness and healing and help to do better today.  I planned my day with God but I was very tired and didn't get far.  I decided only two things really, to get up early and say the rosary and to not let my media consumption cause me to pray the examen late again tonight.

This morning, I was struck by how helpful the rules of Ignatius and the examen prayer already are for me.  I have a long, long way to go and the truth is that there is no "getting there."  But I am grateful to feel that I have finally and truly begun the journey.

The Examen in the Process of Spiritual Discernment


This week's post was supposed to be on the third and fourth rules for spiritual discernment as presented by Fr. Timothy Gallagher and St. Ignatius.  But I have found it necessary to take my time with the Rules, just as I found it necessary to take my time with Interior Castle.

Sure I can zoom through the rules and write a series of blog posts on what I think they mean but if I don't slow down and actually apply them, I won't really benefit and neither will anyone who reads what I write about the process.

So I've spent the past week trying to establish a spiritual routine that includes a night examen.  My success rate has NOT been 100% but I know that I have to keep at it til it is.

In many ways, working with the Rules is subtle.  We have to train ourselves to be aware of the inner movements of our heart and the affects of the good spirit and the bad.  We can't do that unless we are paying close attention, not only to the events of our day but to our inner responses to those events.

In this, the examen is an incomparable resource.

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