The Examen, also known as The Daily Examen, Examination of Conscience or the Awareness Examen is a very simple yet powerful tool in a Christian’s prayer life. The Examen was really developed and popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Jesuit order. This was a practice used daily to help the participant in Ignatius’ retreats to see where they had failed and where they had succeeded.
The prayer is very simple so I’ll get right to it. There are two questions that we ask God in this prayer:
1. The moment of consolation. We ask God to show us where we were connected to Him the most during our day. We ask God something like, “In what moment was I the most connected to you?”
2. The moment of desolation. We ask God to reveal where we got in His way or where we have failed Him. We can ask God something like, “In what moment today was I disconnected from you?”
The key to this exercise is to be really ready to listen to God’s voice. Try to find a quiet place and spend some time just breathing in God’s presence before you try to just start asking God these questions. After you’ve spent some time in silence, ask the Holy Spirit to speak. When you ask these questions try to take captive the first thought or moment that comes to mind. This way you are not ‘thinking’ but merely listening. For example, many times when I have prayed the examen and God revealed a moment of consolation I quickly dismissed it because it was something small or something I had considered trivial, but after thinking it over I quickly realized those first moments that came to mind always had a common theme and I found God was just speaking in a way I had not anticipated. Mostly I have expected God to reveal my moments of connection to Him when I was doing something I considered to be particularly religious, but I am usually surprised that my connections with God are in the small and unexpected things.
In the youth ministry in our Church I will sometimes practice the examen over a worship service or youth gathering. I often find the more I practice this or practice this in a group with other believers it really helps to reveal what God is doing and where He is moving in our ministry.
**Note: this may be a good exercise to journal during, that way you can spend time reflecting over previous exercises which helps to see where God is moving on a larger scale as well as where you are connecting or disconecting from Him on a regular basis.
Here are some other ways to ask God to help you reflect:
When did I feel the most love today? The least love?
For what moment am I the most grateful for? The least grateful?
Where did I see God moving in me today? Where did I get in His way?