Spiritual Exercises: Daily Prayer of Examen

Daily Prayer of Examen

Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of God is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And God knows the (deeds) that ye do. [Quran 29:45].

The Prayer of Examen is one of the spiritual exercises recommended by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). The founder of the Catholic religious order, the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits), St. Ignatius was also the author of The Spiritual Exercises, a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices designed to help us deepen our relationship with God.

By developing spiritual sensitivity and cultivating awareness of God, the Prayer of Examen concentrates on the past 24 hours of our day, focusing on four elements of self-examination: Presence, Gratitude, Review, and Response.

One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day. [IgnatianSpirituality.com].

1. Presence:

In a calm state and quiet place, we begin the Daily Prayer of Examen by concentrating on the nearness of God and His reality in our life.

Be still and know that I am God . . . [Psalm 46:10].

I have a capacity in my soul for taking in God entirely. I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God. [Meister Eckhart’s Sermons].

A believer longs after God – to come into His presence – to feel His love – to feel near to Him in secret – to feel in the crowd that he is nearer than all the creatures. Ah! dear brethren, have you ever tasted this blessedness? There is greater rest and solace to be found in the presence of God for one hour, than in an eternity of the presence of man. [Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoirs & Remains, SERMON XIV].

2. Gratitude:

Next, we concentrate our prayer on the past 24 hours, reflecting on God’s generosity. How did it manifest itself? What prompted thankfulness? Did we neglect to be grateful and to give God the credit for a propitious event or happy circumstance?

[The soul] must forget about [understanding], and abandon itself into the arms of love, and His Majesty will teach it what to do next; almost its whole work is to realize its unworthiness to receive such great good and to occupy itself in thanksgiving. [St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, Ch. 3].

Begin by thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving. [Priscilla Maurice, Sickness, Its Trials and Blessings, p. 221].

Cultivate a thankful spirit! It will be to thee a perpetual feast. There is, or ought to be, with us no such thing as small mercies; all are great, because the least are undeserved. Indeed a really thankful heart will extract motive for gratitude from everything, making the most even of scanty blessings. [John Ross Macduff, The Words and Mind of Jesus, p.25].

If the only prayer you say in your entire life is “Thank You” that would suffice. [Meister Eckhart].

3. Review:

By daily reviewing our intentions and emotions, our speech, and our actions, we can then look for ways to increase our actual reliance on God. We can observe and remember the details of the previous day, with an eye to improving ourselves.

How can our yesterday help us amend today? How can we benefit looking over our past 24 hours? Did we waste time? Did we speak harshly? Act selfishly? Did we  fully maintain awareness of God? What habits and lifestyle patterns reflect godliness?

[Believers are they ] who, when they have committed a shameful deed or have [otherwise] sinned against themselves, remember God and pray that their sins be forgiven – for who but God could forgive sins? – and do not knowingly persist in doing whatever [wrong] they may have done. [Quran 3:135].

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life . . . Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. [Psalm 143:8-10].

All during the day, in the chinks of time between the things we find ourselves obliged to do, there are the moments when our minds ask: ‘What next?’ In these chinks of time, ask Him: ‘Lord, think Thy thoughts in my mind. What is on Thy mind for me to do now?’ When we ask Christ, ‘What next?’ we tune in and give Him a chance to pour His ideas through our enkindled imagination. If we persist, it becomes a habit. [Frank Laubach, Prayer, the Mightiest Force in the World, p. 75].

4. Response:

Every day our prayer thus examines how to improve our conduct. What changes can we make immediately and what changes require time? With much reflection and scriptural help, we form our responses.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. [Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name].

If we are to walk as Christ walked, we must be in private as well as in public, at home, as well as abroad. It must be every hour, all day long, and not as stated points or certain fixed occasions. [Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, p. 201].

Ultimately, the Daily Examen Prayer is a supplication seeking forgiveness, asking for guidance, expressing gratitude, and pleading for strength and resolve to amend our life. We are seeking not only an improved change of circumstances, but a fundamental change of character.

Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until the eventide. Inspire all my thoughts. Pervade all my imaginations. Suggest all my decisions. Lodge in my soul’s most inward citadel, and order all my doings. Be with me in silence and in my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and the weariness of the evening. Give me grace at all times to rejoice in Thy mysterious companionship. [John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, p. 89].

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