I grew up in the evangelical mainstream church, in the south nonetheless. I know how to speak the language, stand or sit at the right parts, and I can sing the standard praise songs from the past twenty years in my sleep. So it comes as a surprise more to me than anyone else that for the past few years, I’ve been intrigued with—and blessed by—several of the more “high church” practices.
Let’s ignore the details for now, but the easy explanation for this is that my journey from life in Texas to the Middle East to Oregon has broadened my sensibilities and opened my eyes to continually unexpected ways to connect with God and hear His voice. Initially confusing compass directions and unexpected bends in the road aside, this journey has been a surprising and beautiful one for me, and I’m grateful for the little earthquakes along the way that’ve helped shake away my cultural norms from the purer simplicity of following Jesus.
And yet on this journey, I’m slowly repacking my backpack with practices and cultural traditions that make sense for me and my current stage of life. One of those is the ancient tradition called “Daily Examen.”
Initially proposed by the Jesuit priest Ignatius Loyola (see? there’s that high church I was talking about), the idea is to stop twice a day—at noon and at the end of the day—and well? Examine. To think through your day (or the day so far), and express gratitude for how God is already revealing Himself in your life. It’s almost like praying backwards in some ways—you’re acknowledging that, yes, God has shown Himself real, present, and loving today.
Now, as a homeschooling mom of three kids who also works full-time, I’ll be first in line to say I don’t do this twice per day. Lately I’ve been practicing this once, at the end of my day (and when it’s crazy, every few days). But when I make the time for an Examen, I find myself sleeping better, resting in the grace and goodness of Christ in my life.
Here’s how it works for me:
I sit still, usually on my bed, and close my eyes. After a few minutes of letting my mind wander, I say a simple thanks to God for who He is. Not for stuff or for what He’s done for me—just for Him being God.
Then I review my day, starting from the morning (or at least, the earliest part of the day I can remember). I try my darnedest not to “choose” where to stop; I wait to see what the Holy Spirit brings to mind. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s on the surprisingly little things where my mind wants to stop—the smell of my coffee that morning, the few minutes of quiet with my youngest before everyone else woke up, the just-right song I heard during work, the delectable cheese at lunch.
I pause, and say thanks to God for these little gifts. These are signs of His presence, no matter how small.
Then I move to a deeper reflection, focusing on how I felt during the day and my attitudes that followed—did my actions adequately display trust in God and gratitude for Christ’s daily, constant presence? When was I most aware of that presence? When did I choose to act more out of reactionary selfishness than in serving others?
I park there for a bit, as you might imagine, expressing sorrow for my less-than-savory attitudes while basking in the forgiveness I know I already have through Christ. I listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice as I ask how I could react different next time. I also thank God for those times that obviously came from Him, when I was able to display fruits of the Spirit and the peace that really does pass understanding.
I end with a final, simple thanks for the day’s endless blessings, and also for the grace that’s already waiting for me tomorrow. I acknowledge my desperate, human need to trust Him for all things, including the sleep I’m about to get, and that no matter what big or small things happen tomorrow, He’s already written them.
Fancy Latin name, simple exercise: my evening Daily Examen prayer has centered my soul in the most profound ways lately—it’s given me permission and freedom to rest in Christ’s love for me because He has already shown it extravagantly in the past 24 hours. I just need to stop and recognize it.
If you’re interested in learning more about this ancient practice, one of my friends, Katherine Pershey, recently wrote about her thoughts on the Ignatian practice of Examen. I also appreciate these resources on variations, resources, and general encouragement.
Have you ever tried a Daily Examen? What’s been your experience?
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
I haven’t called it as such, but I have taken a daily examen of my life. I’ve often done this in the morning with my quiet time, but in a way it makes more sense to do it at noon and then at the end of the day because quite frankly, I may start out on the right note in the morning and then the day through its twists and turns can often end up in a ditch.
It’s in those times, when I’m feeling discouraged, that I need a refreshing look at the blessings in my life (both the simple and the grandiose) and it would do my heart good to just rest, abide and be in His presence. I believe I will give this a try and see how my day goes. We can learn a lot from our spiritual ancestral roots…thanks for sharing!
I think as I am getting older I am more into this. I may not call it what you do but I am taking stock of who I am and what makes me happy. It is a good path I am on. Thanks for your thoughts today, Tsh. Very inspiring!
Jamie Rohrbaugh says
What a beautiful concept, Tsh. I had never heard of it. I agree with you about the high church, though. My husband and I just got back from a vacation to London, where we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. We got to sit through an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey, where the choir sang through various Psalms and prayers. It was a very “high church” service, which is not what this charismatic Baptist girl is used to! There was nary a drum to be seen; it was all pipe organ and choir. But it was amazing. I wept because I could feel the Presence of the Lord so strongly. And almost all of the churches and chapels we visited over there felt the same way. They were all very formal, and yet the beauty of the service, the music, and their respect for God’s magnificence were so very moving. It’s like the worship and prayers that have ascended to God there for over a thousand years have soaked into the very walls, and they soaked right into me too. I loved it.
Crystal Stine says
I love this so much – a quiet, simple time with God that doesn’t require tools or books or schedules but choosing to end the day a little earlier to enter into gratitude. And I’ll try anything that helps me sleep better 😉
I encourage you to read the book Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. It is a wonderful book that explains this very well. I read the book several years ago. I needed your post to remind me to again take up this practice. Thank you.
my son (13) attends an all boys Jesuit school. at 1 pm every afternoon, all the boys stop what they are doing and a fellow student from Christian Service leads them in the examen while the boys silently reflect on their day. They follow it with the Ignatian prayer for generosity:
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.
Many ask me why in the world I pay tuition for a faith based school. I have a hundred reasons, and this is a prime example of one.
Thank you for the introduction to the practice. I have heard of it before, but have not done an examen. Reading through your post though, gave me pause even this morning to stop, breathe in God’s grace and listen to Him. This has been a stressful week, so the reminder to be still and know is a needed one. Thank you. . . I will be looking up the resources to begin this practice. 🙂
I love this “spiritual discipline” ever since I read about it in a little Navpress book called Meditative Prayer by Richard Peace. Life gets busy, and I forget about it though. Lately as I fall into bed–when I remember!– I confess failure and give thanks for the good things, but I forget to look simply at where I saw God in my day. Thanks for writing on this.
Lynn Morrissey says
Tsh, I haven’t done this “officially” in the way you suggest, but I can certainly see the value and beauty of such a spiritual practice. I do something similar in journaling, where I note how I’ve been aware of God’s presence, blessings, and interventions in my life (I try to journal dailty); where I praise and thank God. confess sins, and examine my life, generally, in His presence. Thank you for sharing and for showing the richness of some “high-church” spiritual practices. THere is much beauty there to be mined. I also love liturgical worship and the incorporation of classical music (such as Bach) into the worship service. There is incredible spiritual depth and richness in much traditional, classical worship music.
Because I have that “monkey mind” – you know the one that swings and jumps from thought to thought the Examen is so beneficial to me. Sometimes I have to wrestle it to the ground, but the calming, centering practice is the best medicine. (My parish is a Jesuit Apostolate so there are resources offered that are great guides for me)
There are some guided forms online that I use when I need to, but it is good to just be with yourself and God. My biggest benefit is praying without asking for everything under the sun. Different relationship altogether.
So happy to see mention made here of this wonderful practice! Thank you!
Emily H. Lucas says
Thank you, I love this, a quiet time with GOD to thank HIM at the days end for all blessings big and small and for being my GOD.
Love and blessings to You,
Joanne Peterson says
No, I had not heard of this practice before. This could not have come at a better time when I/we are in survival mode in my home. Looking for Jesus in the everyday, regularly examining my reactions and thoughts to make them right in my relationship with Jesus and with others around me, and then make restitution with others I may have offended. I do believe this will be more than beneficial, just what the Doctor ordered for peace in myself in my home. Thank you!
Melody Ann says
Yes, yes, and yes! For the past two years during the school year I attended one wknd. a month retreat with Kairos School of Spiritual Formation which is based on Ignatian Spirituality. I have learned so much and The Examen was one way of being in my world that has become more of an awareness in how I live daily. I would do well to be more intentional with a routine practice. Centering Prayer practice is also another helpful practice I have found in aligning myself with the Presence of God/Spirit. Tsh, I’ve been reading your blog for several years now…appreciate sharing the Journey and learning. Blessings to you and your family.
I’ve come across this practice quite a few times recently in my reading, and I think it might be the nudge I need to try it myself. I’m tired of the laundry list prayers, and I’m sure God is too. Reflection and examination might be exactly what I need. Thanks,Tsh:)
Melanie Dale says
I’ve struggled with falling asleep for the last few years, so lately right before bed, I quiet my mind, force my brain to stop trying to solve problems, and picture myself stepping up to the throne of God and laying my head in His lap. I end the day thanking Him and just being with Him. It actually helps me fall asleep. I like this post and the steps you take and will try them out!
Kimberly Thompson says
Love this 🙂 thank you for sharing.
Beth WIlliams says
I like this idea. I need more quiet reflection time. God deserves more thanks from me than I give him on a daily basis!!
My stress level has been up a bit more lately due to aging father going into hospital. rehab, and back to assisted living. We are trying to get his meds adjusted just right. Add this to family staying with me, busy at work, running a home & you get the idea. I don’t handle stress to well!
This idea of resting and reflecting on all of God’s goodness during the day sounds great and relaxing. I usually do a thankful journal where I post daily the little things I’m thankful for–nice weather, rain, good job, time with hubby, etc. It makes me acutely aware of all I have to be thankful for!
I don’t do this on a regular basis, although I plan to put this practice “Daily Examen.” into play. I find it very powerful when I do, do this. It is the most powerful way to allow God to show Himself. Great message, thanks for sharing. VERY motivating.
Be Blessed To Be A Blessing!
Refreshing to see this wonderful practice mentioned. Liturgical worship is vibrant and beautiful and very meaningful to me. The Ancient Desert Mothers and Fathers have given us beautiful practices of worship and meditation. They help us grow deeper into a mature faith journey. Peace and blessings to you today.
Amy Reasoner says
This is so timely! I just read about the Prayer of Examen in Richard Foster’s book on prayer last night, and it’s been on my heart today. Love this idea!
Nicole M says
Love this. My brothers do this on a daily basis, at their Jesuit high school, nonetheless. It sounds like a healthy spiritual practice for all!
I love this. I right in a journal everyday. I am going to try a few of the things you wrote that I really liked. Thank you.
Chris Malkemes says
Tsh, my sweet friend, I did not know about the Examen, but recently I’ve been thinking about it.
I wrote this a few weeks ago and was surprised what was revealed in the power of His examination.
Would I be willing to ask God to test, try and examine me?
What would He find?
What would He find in me?
What secrets do I still hold hidden even from myself?
Few people like to be held under a magnifying glass. If you look close enough flaws will bubble to the surface. If you look hard enough you find imperfection
With trembling lips, I yield to His examination. He already knows what He will find. His testing is good. My sin, ugliness and sorrow are hidden from my view. My unpleasant secrets must come to the surface to be dealt with in honesty and healing. Only in the dealing can I change. Only in the truth can I no longer live a lie. So I bow my head, breathe a prayer and enter in:
Lord, examine me.
Look deeply within the secret places of my mind and my heart.
I yield my naked raw self to Your touch.
I trust in the end nothing hidden – nothing to separate us.
Draw near, Sir.
Draw near to my mind, soul and body.
Examine and heal my hurting places.
Remove everything not pleasing in Your sight.
At Your touch my heart will beat in rhythm to your own.
My thoughts will clearly grasp Your truth.
My soul will dance to the pure music of Your love.
In Your examination You are faithful in Your faithfulness.
I yield to You, O Lord, I yield to You alone. Examine me.
Thank You, Your Majesty. A thousand times thank you!
I wonder why I was so unwilling to let Him examine me.
Like silver refined in the hand of the Silversmith.
Like gold purified in the palm of the Jeweler.
He treasures His treasure and His treasure I am.