The Examen:

A Reflective, Spirit-led Review of the Day


History of Ignatius (1491-1556)

Ignatius was known for his womanizing, gambling and fine tastes in clothes and food. His self-indulgent life as a Spanish soldier ended when while physically healing he began to notice the differences within himself when he meditated on the ways of Jesus compared to his own motives, thoughts and dreams of his earlier life. Noticing what drained (desolations) or filled (consolations) Him with faith, hope and love was key to his conversion. His Spiritual Exercises were written in the 16th century when he traded in his sword for the cross and his nobility for a life of poverty.

The goal of the spiritual life, according to Ignatius, is: to choose what better leads to God’s deepening life within us.                  

The examen, as a method of reflective prayer, helps us realize the purpose of spiritual exercises: to become aware of God’s presence and to discern His will through close attention to the subtle interior movements of God’s Spirit.

What is the Examen?

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.                                                                                                                 Psalm 139:23-24   

The examen is first an attitude of prayer in the context of gratefulness as well as a method and practice that teaches us that our lives are seen by God – a God who delights in mercy (Micah 7), who longs to be gracious (Isaiah 30), and who rises to show us compassion. This is good news!

So, what does He see? Rather than hide our lives from God as our first parents did in the garden…let us enter into the Good News which truly is, so that we can live along a path of grace daily.


Examen of consciousness is when we ask God to show us evidence of His presence.   When have you last played “I Spy God”? It is to find God in life and ministry.

The examen Ignatius outlined in his Spiritual Exercises has 5 points:
  1. Acknowledge God’s presence and express gratitude for His blessings
  2. Request the Holy Spirit for discernment to review your day
  3. Review the day (seeking presence of God and where you left Him out)
  4. Express sorrow for sin and ask/receive God’s forgiving love
  5. Notice patterns & ask for grace to be more available to the God who loves you for the next day

It is a Reflective, Spirit-led Review of the Day that …gratefully sees life on a path of grace offered through (usually) pairs of questions like:

What is most life giving today?

What has been most draining?


Where was I living in grace and most receptive to grace?

Where was I resistant to grace? (Wanting “My Way”! Being too hurried)


When did I give or receive the most love today?

When was I too hurried or too busy? (Hard to be loving and efficient at the same time!)


            There are many versions of the examen with various times and ways, but all are based on the spirit of prayer and framework of these five points.

Why Do the Prayer of Examen?

We begin to cultivate a moment by moment attentiveness to the opportunities of what God places before us…not on the calendar or to do list…but in the NOW!

            Why prayerfully reflect on everyday life/ministry? Because God is there! It is a way to find God and His direction.

            This practice allows us to grow this kind of attentiveness. This practice places us before God so He can bring freedom to places of stuckness, healing to places of woundedness, companionship to places of aloneness. This enables us to live in the light of His presence, merciful, forgiving, loving, compassionate.

            The fruit of regularly examining life and ministry brings greater awareness, attentiveness, readiness and anticipation of Gods whisperings. Through practice we learn to discern good from evil, God’s direction and leadings. Reflection is foundational!

            Plato said the unexamined life is not worth living. I think Ignatius agrees! We would miss too much and make many choices that would not be as fruitful or wise.

The Practice of Examen

  1.  Be Present to Gods Presence

            Get comfortable, quiet mind to create space to come into God’s presence.  

            Prayerfully invite God’s presence into the time.  Follow with 2 minutes of silence.


  1.  Invite Holy Spirit for Guidance

            Pray and ask the HS to guide your time and lead you into truth. Request discernment during your time of prayer. (This is as simple as “guide me to notice and hear what you would have me notice and hear”. )


  1. 3.  Begin with Gratitude

            Review the day like a movie with Jesus at your side holding the remote and HE gets to fast forward and pause at any scene.  Ask Him to show you where times of gratitude and grace were given to you. Just watch and give thanks holding them in your mind. This is not a spoken prayer… it is a listening prayer so don’t fill space with words. 


  1.  Review the Day

            Review again, without judgment, rationalizing or justifying.  Experience all the range of emotions you had this day in the Lord’s presence. 

            Consider questions like these:

Where did I notice Gods presence?

Where did I fall shortnot noticing His presence?

Where was Gods Spirit touching me or someone else?

Where was I insensitive, unloving, or damaging to others, creation, or myself?

Where was I most aliveliving in the flow of the Spirit?

When did I feel detached or anxious or bored?


  1. Respond

            Allow God to invite you to respond in some way to what you have heard and experienced during your time of reflective, spirit-led prayer. 

         Be open to what God has for you. Ask Him for a word or vision to continue on your journey with Him and others. Journaling this can be a great way to review and reflect monthly to see what themes may arise in your life. Talk about these with a trusted spiritual companion.  

Spiritual Formation Resources for the Examen Prayer

The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our LIves Today by Timothy M Gallagher

The God Hunt by Karen Mains

Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf.

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ

            Noticing God by Richard Peace 

Sacred Rhythms: Spiritual Practices that Nourish Your Soul and Transform Your Life by Ruth Haley Barton 

Sleeping with Bread: Holding on to What Gives You Life by Dennis Sheila and Matthew Linn

Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun


Laura Harbert of Fuller Theological Seminary has done an eloquent presentation.


This is one practice that will provide the environment for room for the Spirit to work, for you to notice the movements of the Holy Spirit in your life and others. Notice the emotion, physical and spiritual movements as you do this reflective, Spirit-led review of the day.  Attunement to these movements will help you to become a discerning transformative person, spiritual companion and leader!


Bless You!