There is an incredibly powerful prayer practice in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola called the Prayer of Examen. While the Ignatian examen has been interpreted and applied in various ways, I have found that looking closely at the origin of the practice and developing my own variation of the examen has had a tremendous effect on the way I’ve incorporated a daily examen into my spiritual life.
The Method for Praying the Examen of St. Ignatius Loyola
This is an excerpt from the Spiritual Exercises:
METHOD FOR MAKING THE GENERAL EXAMEN
It contains in it five Points.
First Point. The first Point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits received.
Second Point. The second, to ask grace to know our sins and cast them out.
Third Point. The third, to ask account of our soul from the hour that we rose up to the present Examen, hour by hour, or period by period: and first as to thoughts, and then as to words, and then as to acts, in the same order as was mentioned in the Particular Examen.
Fourth Point. The fourth, to ask pardon of God our Lord for the faults.
Fifth Point. The fifth, to purpose amendment with His grace.
How to Pray the Ignatian Examen
St. Ignatius prescribes that the examen should be prayed twice daily. Here is how he describes the process:
Let him go over hour by hour, or period by period, commencing at the hour he rose, and continuing up to the hour and instant of the present examen, and let him make in the first line of the G———- as many dots as were the times he has fallen into that particular sin or defect. Then let him resolve anew to amend himself up to the second Examen which he will make.
The third time: After supper, the second Examen will be made, in the same way, hour
by hour, commencing at the first Examen and continuing up to the present (second) one,
and let him make in the second line of the same G ———- as many dots as were the times
he has fallen into that particular sin or defect.
Bringing the Ignatian Examen into Your Prayer Life
St. Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises for his community as a way in which they should live their lives of prayer. Even the Jesuits themselves have taken different approaches to the Examen often interpreting each stage/point in different ways.
Before you go searching for those many ways to pray the Ignatian examen, take some time to use what St. Ignatius wrote and attempt to integrate it into your own life.
After practicing it a couple of times, go out and read what others have done to integrate the prayer of examen into their own lives.
I’ve embarked on a journey to pray the examen as often as I can. I’ve found that praying the examen of St. Ignatius adds a level of meaning and purpose to my days that I did not have before.
I invite you to join me in a journey to prayerfully review our days–to find God in the moments where we might have missed him otherwise.