The Ignatian Examen, or the Daily Examen is a contemplative prayer led by memory. Rather than a prayer utilized to clear one’s conscience, the Examen is a prayer of consciousness. During an Examen, one reflects on the current day, focussing on memories from the events of the day as a way of recognizing the Divine Presence.
Often, the Examen awakens the practitioner to the Divine through routine or ordinary moments to illustrate the subtle and surprising ways God speaks. This prayer practice helps cultivate and refine discernment as well as an awareness of God’s presence.
Traditionally there are five movements or steps in the Examen. The following steps outlined below are adapted from the technique outlined in the Spiritual Exercises developed by Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century. St. Ignatius required his companions, the Jesuits, to practice the Examen daily at noon and before turning in for sleep.
This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.
- Acknowledge an awareness of the Divine.
- Review the day in a posture of gratitude.
- Recognize a “Consolation” and a “Desolation” from the day.
- Choose a “Desolation” to pray into.
- Look with hope for new tomorrow.
A consolation is an experience that causes you to feel fully alive, at peace, joyful, happy, comforted, whole, connected, your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel close God.
A desolation is an experience that causes you to feel drained of energy, frustrated, irritated, angry, sad, sorrowful, alone, isolated, unaccepted, fragmented, less than your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel far away from God.
The tricky thing about desolation is that even though it is an uncomfortable and sometimes distressing experience and we may feel as if God is far away, God is still very near. So the gift is praying with the desolation, telling God about your experience and asking for God’s grace in the experience. (It is also good to give God thanks for the consolation experiences.) God shows up in desolations AND consolations. It’s just that it’s easier to “experience” God in consolations and we often move away from God in desolations.
For more detail about each step of the Examen, read How Can I Pray?
- Gravity Center’s Spring and Fall Retreat Evening Recordings
- “Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards Through Your Day” by Dennis Hamm, SJ
- “How to Make the Examen Part of Your Day” from www.IgnatianSpirituality.com, a service of Loyola Press
- The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today by Timothy M. Gallagher
- A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer: Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen by Jim Manney
- Moving in the Spirit: Becoming a Contemplative in Action by Richard Hauser, SJ
- “A Simple Ritual for Harried Managers (and Popes)” by Chris Lowney, Harvard Business Review
*This post originally appeared on Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism’s website.