Examen: Five Steps to Start Finding Peace with God, Yourself and the World

June 1st, 2016 | John Chandler


Ignatius of Loyola was a Christian leader in the 16th century known for founding the Jesuits. Ignatius developed an approach to spirituality, where we meet God by engaging the imagination. You are probably already familiar with another one of his exercises, Lectio Divina.

The purpose of the Examen is, as Paul say in Corinthians, to be discerning of ourselves. It is a prayer made up of five movements, best used to review the day or week prior. Prayerful examination of one’s life is a central step toward finding and making peace.

Five Movements of Examen

Before you start, take a moment to settle ourselves into quiet. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. We are not dozing or daydreaming, so you may want to sit up straight with both feet flat on the ground. Take a few more breaths.

1. Pray for light.

Begin by remembering that your are in the presence of God. Ask God’s spirit to guide you as you look back over the previous week.

2. Review the day in thanksgiving.

Now, begin to look back peacefully over your past week with gratitude. Think back to the small pleasures, a tasty meal, a kind word, a peaceful moment. As you go through your week, pause on those moments experiencing them again, and thanking God for every good and undeserved gift you have received.

3. Review the feelings that surface in the replay of the day.

Look back at your week again. Let it replay in your mind like a movie. As you watch your week, take note of the feelings you experienced. Did you have moments of delight, boredom, fear, anticipation, resentment, anger, peace, contentment, impatience, desire, hope, regret, shame, uncertainty, compassion, disgust, gratitude, pride, rage, doubt, confidence, admiration, shyness.

4. Choose one of those feelings (positive or negative) and pray from it.

Now, chose one of those feelings and pray from it.  You may need to thank God for the joy of that moment, or express your pain and anger, or ask for healing. Be honest with God about how you feel.

5. Look toward tomorrow.

Finally, look forward to tomorrow and the week to come. What feelings does it raise in you. Excitement? Dread? A desire to plan, or to procrastinate? Share those feelings with God. After a moment, we’ll hand tomorrow over to God by praying the Lord’s Prayer.