The first night of my spiritual direction program, we were all handed a brochure called “The Daily Faith Awareness Prayer.” I was told to “do” this prayer every day as an important step in experiencing God in all
things. It is a form of a prayer that has been historically referred to as the “prayer of examen,” in which you intentionally reflect on your day, calling to memory what you did or thought about. You try to remember the
blessings you gave and received, thanking God for each of them. You also consider all the good you might have done but did not, and repent of those sins of omission. Finally, you repent of each harsh word and unloving
action and ask God to help you act in more loving ways.
Taking stock of the day, with the goal of living more fully for Christ and others each day, is the purpose of the prayer of examen. Some of you may already be familiar with forms of this prayer, but to many Christians this is a new kind of praying.
It certainly was new to me. And honestly, the idea of examining my life in this way was not that appealing, so I did not do it at first. I later found out that the prayer of examen is such a vital way to daily grow in and for Christ that Ignatius taught his followers, the Jesuits, that if they had to abandon any prayer during the day, never to abandon
this one—not even for one day. To this day, Jesuits are taught that this practice is essential.
That caught my attention, so I started to practice the prayer of examen on a regular basis. It is not the most heartwarming kind of praying, since part of the prayer includes an examination of our weaknesses and failures. And since this is to be a daily examination, it can seem a little tedious at times. But it is worth it.
Many other spiritual practices draw us into intimacy with Christ but do not help us as directly to deal with our weaknesses and build on our strengths. If practiced regularly, the prayer of examen will help you to be purified
of those things that deter you from living more for Jesus. It is a daily gateway for the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of strengths and weaknesses to help free and empower you to live out a more holistic gospel.
Want to try it now? Click through this guide to the prayer, and bookmark this page for future reference. [[launch the prayer of examen]]
As you pray the prayer of examen, you will find something wonderful happening. More and more, the things that once had such a hold on you will no longer have the same effect, and you will experience an expanding love for God and others. You will desire more time to seek to live like Jesus and less time with the things that used to be important to you. You will not be totally freed from all “things of the world,” but you will be increasingly open to getting rid of whatever holds you back from fulfillment in Christ.
Purifying our lives is never a completed process this side of heaven—it is a lifelong journey into Christ-likeness. An image that has been useful for me in understanding this process is a spiral. As we grow in Christ, we may find that old issues and concerns that we thought we dealt with surprise us by coming around and resurfacing again. But when they do, because we have been spiraling upward into greater intimacy with Christ, those same issues and concerns are treated in a different manner. At times we may not even be consciously aware of these new ways we are handling certain circumstances.
The prayer of examen, if practiced regularly, will give you increased freedom from the things that hinder you from “making the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5 NIV) and increased freedom to be more like Christ, every day, in your words and in your actions.