Grace: To know the Spirit of God at work in my daily life.
Reflection: Google came up with 304,000 results to my search query “Examen of Conscience.” Needless to say, a lot of great material on one of St. Ignatius’ most prized forms of prayer is already floating out there online for you to discover. While the Internet is already saturated with stuff on the Examen prayer, it is not without good reason. Millions of Christians pray (and blog) regularly about the Examen because it is: 1. short and simple, 2. personal, and 3. spiritually effective. So as not to clog the Internet anymore than necessary on things regarding the Examen, I will be brief . . . .
1. The Examen is Short and Simple.
The Examen takes anywhere from five to ten minutes of silence and involves five general steps:
2. The Examen is Personal.
I have asked many of my fellow Jesuits as to how they pray their Examen (we pray it daily as prescribed by our Constitutions) and no two Jesuits have share the same response. While that might seem strange, it isn’t really. A wise spiritual father once told me that the Examen works best when we “make it our own.” If I try to fit my prayer into some other person’s categories, I wouldn’t be praying my Examen, I would be praying his Examen. Praying a “uniquely personal” Examen only works if we believe that God is at work in each moment of our lives. If we believe that God is at work in our lives and if we want to have a personal relationship with God, it only makes sense that we are completely open and honest with Him through the Examen.
3. The Examen is Spiritually Effective.
God is at work in each moment of our lives, sometimes in ways we would have least expected him to be. Have you ever searched high and low for something like a set of keys only to find out that they were in your bag the whole time? (This happens to me regularly). Many spiritual seekers, Christians and non-Christians alike, search high and low for a drop of the divine in their lives but often forget to look for God in the simplest of places: their own soul. Praying the Examen with fidelity and sincerity not only opens our hearts and minds to the events of our own lives, but also to the holy presence and being of God. While praying the Examen, the aim of our lives slowly ceases to be about our personal gain. In turn the aim of our lives gradually grows to be participation in bringing about the Kingdom of God on Earth.