Cultivating a relationship with God can be hard in the midst of our busy lives, and that’s why Ignatius of Loyola came up with the Examen in the 16th Century. His monks tired of all the different prayers they had to do every day, so the brilliant Ignatius came up with one prayer they could practice just three times a day.
The Examen is a contemplative prayer with a somewhat scientific approach: it’s a practice repeated at least once daily that allows us to observe patterns within our lives. In this case, the patterns show us our own habits and reveal where we feel most (and least) connected to God in daily life. With this knowledge, we’re able to more effectively recognize good and bad habits, and change our habits accordingly to grow closer to God.
The Ignatian motto is “find God in all things.” And yes, we can do this by taking a moment each day to examine our lives. Ignatius’s suggestion is to pray the Examen three times daily — upon rising, after lunch, and after dinner. Many people choose to do the Examen as a nighttime prayer instead, using it to reflect on the full day rather than in sections. There are many variations on this prayer, so start here, but find the one that works best for you.
I invite you to try the Examen as I go over the practice in this video. If you haven’t done it before, having a guide can help until you memorize the steps until it’s routine. With a candle and some time set aside, you’ll be practicing your own daily Examen in no time — and maybe with some tweaks of your own to make it more personalized!
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