A Life-Changing Daily Prayer Practice: Prayer of Examen

I’ve prayed in lots of different ways over the years. I’ve used the acronym ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). The Lord’s Prayer has been a guide. I’ve tried contemplative prayer. I’ve prayed in groups, using Marco Polo, using a journal, and while walking in the woods on my own. 

Prayer of Examen

But the prayer practice that has had the largest effect on my life has been the prayer of Examen. 

It’s a way of praying that emerged from St. Ignatius, back in the 1500s. It’s fairly simple. Every morning, I begin with a few minutes to center myself on the truth of who God is. Then I review the previous day as if it were a movie, scene by scene. I linger on moments of “consolation”—the joy, connection, love, and gratitude of the day—and “desolation”—the times of disconnection, resentment, restlessness, and anxiety. I notice the ways I have moved in and out of connection to the Spirit of God, and then I ask God if there is any way for me to respond, with praise or lament or taking action. 

It is rare that this time feels profound or meaningful in and of itself. 

Practicing this way of prayer…

But practicing this way of praying for years has changed me from the inside out. It has helped me notice joy and disappointment. It has helped me become less defensive and more curious when my words are sharp or my shoulders ache. It has helped me to wake up to the presence of God and slow down to receive that presence with grace and peace and love. 

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