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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

Spiritual Practices: Daily Examen

Five hundred years ago Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what

has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the

events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern God’s direction for us.

In the Examen, we review our recent past to find God and God’s blessings in life. We also look

back to find moments in the day when things didn’t go so well: when we were hurt by something

that happened to us, or when we sinned or made a mistake. We give praise and thanksgiving for

the blessed moments. We ask forgiveness and healing for the difficult and painful moments.

Having reflected on this past day, we then turn to the day yet to come and ask God to show us

the potential challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. We try to anticipate which moments

might go one way or the other for us: toward God’s plan or away from it. We ask for insight into

what graces we might need to live this next day well; patience, wisdom, fortitude, self-

knowledge, peace, optimism. We ask God for that grace, and we trust that he wants us to succeed

in our day even more than we do.

1. Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the

Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring

clarity and understanding.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God.

Walk through the day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on gifts

received. Look at the work accomplished, and at people present in the day. Give thanks for gifts

exchanged. Pay attention to small things—the food eaten, sights seen, and other seemingly small

pleasures. God is in the details.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the

presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on feelings experienced

during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God

saying through these feelings?

God may show you some ways that you fell short. Make note but look deeply for other

implications and inspiration. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants us to

consider a new direction in some area of work? Are we concerned about someone or a particular

situation? Perhaps we should reach out in some way.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit for direction toward

something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—

positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of

pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about

it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise,

repentance, or gratitude.

5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to

the feelings that surface in a survey of what’s coming up. Feeling doubtful? Cheerful?

Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek

God’s guidance. Ask the Spirit for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

6. Closing. St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen

with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for sin. Ask for protection and help. Ask for

wisdom about the questions and problems still to be faced. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude.

Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. End with the Lord’s Prayer.


1. Give thanksgiving. Relish the moments that went well and all of the gifts I have today.

I begin by giving God thanks for all the things I’m grateful for today. I allow my mind to wander

as I reflect on the ways God has blessed me on this particular day. I allow big things and small

things to arise—everything from the gift of my faith, to the gift of my marriage, to the easy

commute to work today.

2. Ask for the Spirit. Request the Spirit to lead me through my review of the day.

Next, I want to look at the moments in my day when I did not act so well. However, before doing

so, I ask God to fill me with his Spirit so that the Spirit can lead me through this difficult soul-

searching. Otherwise, I’m liable to hide in denial, wallow in self-pity, or seethe in self-loathing.

3. Review and recognize failures. Review the day.

I look back at my day and ask the Lord to point out to me the moments when I have failed in big

ways or small. I take a sobering look at the mistakes I’ve made this day.

4. Ask for forgiveness and healing. Repent of any mistakes or failures.

If I have sinned, I ask God to forgive me and set me straight again. If I have not sinned but

simply made a mistake, I ask for healing of any harm that might have been done. I ask for help to

get over it and move on. I also ask for wisdom to discern how l might better handle such tricky

moments in the future.

5. Pray about the next day. Resolve, in concrete ways, to live tomorrow well.

I ask God to show me how tomorrow might go. I imagine the things I’ll be doing, the people I’ll

see, and the decisions I’ll be mulling over. I ask for help with any moments I foresee that might

be difficult. I especially ask for help in moments when I might be tempted to fail in the way I did


Option 3: adapted from An Everyday Examen

Praying the Examen, as Fr. Dean Brackley, SJ, wrote, is all about "dancing with God." It is time

set aside each day to learn the "dance steps," to ensure that we're not stepping on one another's

toes. It is a moment (or two) when we search for God in the nitty-gritty reality of our day-to-day

lives. But we must have eyes to see. And so, God invites us to recognize that which is holy in

every moment of our day. In gratitude, we turn to God, asking for the grace to recognize Christ,

present, in all things:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

2. Give thanks.

3. Review the day:

*God, where did I see you in my home? In my daily chores? In my morning routines?

Where did I miss your presence?

*God, where did I see you on my commute? In the day's comings and goings?

Where did I pass by too quickly?

*God, where did I encounter you in my meals, shared or alone, quick or leisurely?

Where was I ungrateful?

*God, where did I hear you in the media? Where did I see you on my many devices?

How did I distinguish your voice from other voices?

*God, how did I encounter you in my neighbor? My family, friends and coworkers?

When did I fail to love others as you love me?

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

5. Pray about the next day.

Praying the Examine: using the podcast “The Examen with Fr. James Martin, SJ”

1. Ask God to be with you and enter into God’s presence.

2. Call to mind 2 or 3 things that you are grateful for.





3. Review your day.









4. Ask God for forgiveness and grace.





5. Call to mind something that was especially meaningful in this time of Examen.





6. Ask for the grace to see God tomorrow

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