W hen you were young, did you ever share highs and lows of the day with friends or family? If you did, then you were practicing a very abbreviated adaptation of the Daily Examen. When we share our highs and lows, we connect with our daily experiences, naming what was best and worst. Many of us leave the exercise there, but the Daily Examen takes it further, connecting the experiences of our day with God’s presence and calling us to intentional action in accordance with God’s will.
The Daily Examen was created by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Saint Ignatius considered the Daily Examen to be so important that all Jesuits are required to practice it twice each day. Unlike the basic sharing of highs and lows, the Jesuits—and many Christians today—use the Daily Examen to reflect upon their actions and consider how God is calling them to live. It is both a prayer and a spiritual practice.
If you are interested in daily prayerful meditation that has a specific connection to your actions, the Daily Examen might be for you.
There are five basic steps for practicing the Daily Examen:
1. Become aware of God’s presence: Invite the Holy Spirit as you reflect on the events and feelings of your day. The many happenings may seem jumbled, confusing, or overwhelming. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
2. Review the day with gratitude: Consider the many things that have gone on in your day with thanksgiving. Let gratitude ground your reflection, focusing on the joys and blessings.
3. Attend to your emotions: Saint Ignatius believed that our emotions could help us to identify the presence of God. Reflect on all of the things you were feeling during the day. Were you excited? Bored? Frustrated? Anxious? Confident? Joyful? What is God showing you through those emotions? You may notice some ways in which you have missed the mark or sinned during the day. Confess and repent, but also look for deeper implications. If you were angry, what was behind that feeling? If you were worried about something, where is God calling you to take action?
4. Focus on one part of the day and pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to draw your attention to one particular aspect of your day. Perhaps it is a feeling or a specific event or interaction. This can be a positive or negative part of your day. Reflect on that feeling or event. Pray about it, allowing the prayer to arise spontaneously. This may be a time of intercession, thanksgiving, repentance, or gratitude.
5. Ask for God’s direction: Ask God to give you grace and direct you to right action for tomorrow. Pay attention to your feelings as you look toward the next day. Pray out of this, asking for God’s guidance as you move forward.
Practicing the Daily Examen allows us to grow in our understanding of ourselves as we reflect upon our actions and our emotions. It also allows us to engage with God as we give thanks, confess our sins, pray for others, and ask for God’s guidance. The Daily Examen is truly a two-way communication, as we both share our stories and receive wisdom from God.