A busy mum of 6 children recently told me she always takes 5 minutes for herself during her hectic day, no matter how many people are looking for food! She does this each day at 5pm and refers affectionately to it as “5 at 5”. Five minutes of prayer at 5pm in the day. Like this busy mum, the daily Examen is a prayer that St Ignatius gave great importance to. If all prayers during the course of the day were to be missed, the Examen was the only one that must never be missed, Ignatius told his companions. Such were the benefits that Ignatius found in this simple but profound prayer. The Examen is a review of your day and has 5 parts to it.
This is a version of the five-step daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- How did I respond/how did I feel?
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
- Look towards tomorrow.
Looking back over our day for about 5/10 minutes, helps us to get in touch with where God was, and where God is leading us. St Ignatius describes this as “my eyes were opened a little” as he slowly began to see how God loved him and where he was being guided in concrete ways during the day. This is what we are also invited to do as we review our day. When we see how we are loved by God and can experience it then everything changes. Ignatius believed this short practice of prayer was a gift from God.
Step 1 : Become aware of God’s presence with you now:
As when praying with Sacred Space try to become aware of God's presence - “I remind myself that in these moments, God is gazing on me with deep and unconditional love and holding me in being. I pause and think of this.”
Step 2 : Review your day with gratitude:
Looking back over the course of your day, what are you grateful for? (Try to be concrete about the things you are thankful for - maybe your family; job; good health; chat with a friend; happy memories; walk in nature; beauty of creation; etc.) Can you notice where God was present in all this. Can you see the gifts God has given this day? Even if the day was really difficult is there something you are thankful for?
Step 3 : How did I respond to the moments of my day/how did I feel:
Was I able to notice God’s promptings during the moments of the day I have just recalled. Did I respond to people/situations in a good way or was it not so good? Did my heart feel warm and full or was it discouraged with little energy? Did God feel close or far away during my day? Did my responses help to build the relationships in my life (both human and divine?). If things didn't go too well today remember how we are loved and held by God in all our brokenness and vulnerability. As we ask forgiveness we are showered with love, healing and the grace to move forward.
Step 4 : Choose one feature from the day and pray from it:
Was there one encounter/situation/person that was particularly positive or challenging for me today? Bring this time to God now and talk openly and freely about it and how it was for you. Trust that God is interested in this and offers love, peace and healing to you.
Step 5: Look towards tomorrow:
As you come to the end of your prayer from today, look ahead to tomorrow and invite God to be with you in all the day will bring. If there is something particular that you have planned - a meeting; appointment; trip or maybe another day just by yourself, ask God to be with you in it. Our God is a God of relationship. What's important to us, is important to God. As in the words spoken to Jeremiah (31:3) “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”.