Puzzle Pieces and the Examen

Below is the text from the video, an excerpt from my new book, Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life. Learn more about the book here.

So, what is the Examen? In a nutshell, it is a method of prayer that you normally complete at the end of your day—it takes about ten to fifteen minutes—that involves praying about the past twenty-four hours of your life. You look with God at the pieces of your life, one by one, as though you were examining the pieces of a puzzle.

To share with you more of what this means, I’ll give you an example from my home. My kids and I like to do puzzles. Many days, after completing one puzzle, we bring another one out. On one such day, we had multiple puzzles out, and we decided it was time to clean up. So we did, carefully placing each puzzle back in its appropriate box. But as my daughter grabbed the boxes to bring them upstairs, the boxes slipped out of her hands, dumping the puzzles into a heap, the different puzzles mixing together. So Abby and I sat down and began examining the pieces together, hoping to get them sorted into their right boxes.

One by one, we would look at a puzzle piece and examine its color, shape, and size. We would ask, “Where does this belong?” It was easy to determine where some pieces belonged, but others were more difficult to figure out. We had to sit with those a bit longer and examine them more closely. Eventually, we finished the job.

puzzle pieces

This is often how I picture praying the Examen. Jesus is sitting down next to me, and together we are picking up the pieces of the past twenty-four hours of my life and examining them. We are looking at everything that occurred in those twenty-four hours. With the Holy Spirit’s help, I can review those hours and see where I can give thanks and name God’s presence. At the same time, with the Holy Spirit’s help, I can see where I struggled to name God or did not act as I wanted. Together, Jesus and I are asking, “Does this belong? Does this help me grow closer in my relationship with God?” Then, after we look at the pieces of my day, I look to my next twenty-four hours and ask for God’s help with it.

Typically, there are five steps to the Examen. The organized planner that I am really likes that there are five steps—that when I complete one, I can move on to the next, and then the next, and then the next until my prayer is complete. And while there are five simple steps to the Examen, what occurs in this small prayer is quite powerful. It is not simply a process of running through a memorized prayer, spouting off words without much thought or purpose. Rather, it is a prayer of intentional reflection on your day that literally involves bringing your entire life before God and praying about it.

About Becky Eldredge 100 Articles
Becky Eldredge is a writer and spiritual director in Baton Rouge, LA. The author of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, Becky holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Education from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University New Orleans. She has her Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Spring Hill College. Becky has been involved in ministry for more than 15 years, with the majority of her work in retreat ministry and adult faith formation. While ministry is one of her passions, her greatest joy is sharing life with her husband, Chris, and her children, Brady, Abby, and Mary.

1 Comment on Puzzle Pieces and the Examen

  1. Thank you for your reflection on the Examen. I have been trying to get a few folks from church to try this out, most seem hesitant but perhaps I am not explaining it well. This piece, just like finding that last puzzle piece, really helps. Blessing.

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