The Prayer of Examen

First I want to acknowledge that this understanding of Examen comes from my learnings about Ignatius discernment exercises through Margaret Silf, Sleeping with Bread (the Lins), Richard Foster, Soulstream and many other speakers and groups (Thanks also to members of my soulcare group). This prayer has a long history in the contemplative community.

Spiritual Direction - The Prayer of ExamenIn order to make use of this Examen, you would need to accept that there is a higher power (God) and that he/she holds you in love and good intentions. This examination is meant to be done at least daily, more if you find you have lost your sense of self and a connection with your purpose from the creator, higher power or God (I will be using God in this exercise). Don’t let your perfectionist side get in the way – don’t make up answers – let them emerge. Be courageous in hearing both the story of your consolation and your desolation.

Consolation:
• For what things am I most grateful today?
• Which moment from today am I most grateful?
• Where in my day did I feel most alive?
• Where did I experience peace, or any other characteristic you long for?
• If I could relive one time in my day what would it be?  Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so special.  Breathe in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.
• In what ways did God invite me to experience his/her love and to see him/her at work in my life today?
• When was I most able to give and receive love today?

Desolation:
• What was your biggest struggle today, or when did you feel sad, helpless or angry?
• Where in my day was I least grateful?
• Where did I notice my choices to receive and respond to God?
• What signs of avoidance or resistance to God’s attention do I sense?
• What choices or habits have been keeping me from living in the freedom of God’s love?

Ask yourself what made these moments so difficult? Be with whatever you feel without trying to change or fix it in any way.

You may want to do the following:
In whatever way you enjoy praying, you might like to express your gratitude to God for the consolations you have noticed and ask for help for your desolations.
 
After you have done the Examen for some time, you may notice patterns in both your consolation and your desolation. If you would like to find out what your consolation or desolation is trying to tell you – you can then add some questions for those patterns. For instance you can add, “What helped me the most with my negativity today?” Or “What helped me the least with my negativity?” “When today – did I ask for what I needed?” “When today did I not ask for what I needed?” Or “When today did I do something I enjoyed rather then because I should?” Etc. Etc. – You get the idea.

PS. I sent this to someone and she gave me the feedback that all the questions felt overwhelming. If that is the case, choose just one question from each section and use that until it is familiar and you feel life venturing further.

© Lynda Chalmers

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