The Prayer of Examen

What is it?
  • A prayer form developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) as part of his work on “spiritual exercises.” It is often a prayer at the end of the day but may be used any time.
  • A way of reviewing the day with God with the intent of examining our need for forgiveness and healing, reconciliation and recommitment
Why is it important?
  • Paying attention to the “shape” and quality of our lives as followers of Jesus is at the heart of Christian spiritual formation.
  • Confessing the wounds we have inflicted on ourselves and others in the process of our daily living opens us to God’s healing grace and forgiveness.
  • Research shows that forgiveness has positive psychological and physical effects.
Scriptures for Reflection
  • Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. —Psalm 103:2–5 NRSV
  • O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. . . . Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? —Psalm 139:1–3, 7 NRSV
  • Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. —Psalm 51:10–12 NRSV
The Practice

1. Read the scripture reflections

2. Read the Prayer of Examen in its entirety (see number four below) to familiarize the group with the process.

3. Lead the group through the prayer step-by-step, inviting them to pray and meditate with each of the four reflective paragraphs (see number four below). Allow several minutes for silent individual prayer after each paragraph is read.

4. The Prayer of Examen

  • First, I come before God in humble prayer. I am thankful for God’s Spirit and for all God does for me and for all people. And I gently enter into this time of prayer with God.
  • Second, after asking for God’s enlightenment, I review my day. Where do I recognize God’s presence? Where was God’s Spirit touching me or someone else? In my thoughts and actions, when was I the most Christ-like? When did I fall short?
  • Third, I trust and receive God’s grace, forgiveness, and healing for any actions that may have been uncaring or harmful to other people, creation, or myself.
  • Fourth, I look forward to tomorrow, with a decision to be more conscious of all of my thoughts, words, and actions. I determine to be more aware of God’s presence living within me and to act and respond as the Lord Jesus would.
  • Fifth, I gently exit this prayer time by thanking God for this experience with God in remembrance, in gratitude for the gift of this day, and in determination that I will be more conscious of God’s presence tomorrow.
    —Adapted from Marvin Rice, “Open Our Eyes,” Healing the Body of Christ (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 2003).
  • Spend time reflecting on the events, interactions, and emotions of the day.
  • Ask for insight into the ways your responses were good, life giving, or healing
  • Ask for insight into the ways your responses may have been insensitive, unloving or damaging to others, creation, or self
  • Pray for forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and release
  • Offer God the next day. Ask God to be present in your thoughts, actions, and relationships as you move on to live a new day more fully alive to the presence of Christ.

5. Close the Prayer of Examen with a brief benediction and invite individuals to draw their attention back to the group.

6. Ask group members to spend five minutes journaling about the feelings and awarenesses that came from praying the Prayer of Examen.

7. Invite any who wish to share their experience with the Prayer of Examen. Some may want to share their journal reflections, but this should be voluntary.

8. Encourage participants to experiment further with the Prayer of Examen between now and the next meeting date.


An alternative summary version of the Prayer of Examen

  • Thank God for the gifts of life and this particular day.
  • Ask God to allow you to see the day as you have lived it and in light of God’s will.
  • Spend time reflecting on the events, interactions, and emotions of the day.
  • Ask for insight into the ways your responses were good, life giving, or healing
  • Ask for insight into the ways your responses may have been insensitive, unloving or damaging to others, creation, or self
  • Pray for forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and release
  • Offer God the next day. Ask God to be present in your thoughts, actions, and relationships as you move on to live a new day more fully alive to the presence of Christ.

The Prayer of Examen in the language of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

  • The first point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the gifts received.
  • The second point is to ask for the grace to know my sins and to root them out.
  • The third point is to demand an account of my soul from the moment of rising to that of the present examination, hour by hour or period by period. The thoughts should be examined first, then the words, and finally the actions
  • The fourth point is to ask pardon of God our Lord for my faults.
  • The fifth point is to resolve to amend with the help of God’s grace.
  • An alternative summary version of the Prayer of Examen
  • Thank God for the gifts of life and this particular day.
  • Ask God to allow you to see the day as you have lived it and in light of God’s will.