The Awareness Prayer

man on bench at winter sunsetThis post is based on Week Two of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

What does it mean to “find God in all things”? We’re all familiar with spiritual literature that speaks of finding God in nature, in art, in the birth of a child, and in many other concrete examples of creation—most of which we take for granted. The graces we pray for each day this week of our Ignatian Prayer Adventure emphasize a much deeper awareness of God’s ongoing creation and unique call to each of us. The Examen prayer, also sometimes called the Awareness Prayer, is one way of going deeper.

The experience of the Examen will be different for each of us. I offer here a few comments derived from my own experience.

Step 1: Pray for God’s help. Be aware of the presence of God, here and now. The other side of that coin is to be present. Prayer is a relationship, and your presence is just as necessary as God’s. Sometimes it’s really hard to let go of our pressing concerns, worries, and immediate plans. A simple breathing exercise before starting—two or three deep breaths in and out—may help. The time of day may make a difference: choose the time when you find it less difficult to be still and open to God’s presence.

Step 2: What are you most thankful for today? Lift it up to God, and express your gratitude in whatever words come to mind. A review of the preceding day that focuses on many things you are grateful for may be a good idea, but be careful not to let the details distract you. Don’t forget to thank God for your more permanent gifts—you know what they are.

Step 3: What are the most powerful feelings you have experienced in the last day? Finding God deep within ourselves is a new idea for many people. If we approach it with honesty and openness, it can be a deeply personal experience of God’s unconditional love for each of us. This is also the point at which any distractions experienced in the preceding steps may be examined. I have often heard from spiritual directees that they are distracted from prayer by problems at work or in their families. If these “distractions” are ongoing, they may be a clue that you need to bring the issue to prayer, and ask God to help you find the grace in the situation. Sometimes God meets us in difficulties, in pain, or in disappointment.

Step 4: Have you missed any opportunities to draw closer to God? Have you identified any feelings that are drawing you away from God? Asking forgiveness is not narrowly limited to material for sacramental confession.

Step 5: What is God calling you to do now? It may be something immediate: today or tomorrow, God may be asking you to say yes to someone who has asked for your help or to apologize to someone you may have hurt. Or the call may be life-changing: God called me to a three-year course of preparation to become a spiritual director—in my mid-seventies. Look forward to the future with hope!

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Barbara Lee
Barbara Lee is a practicing spiritual director who lives in New York City. She is a retired attorney, a former U.S. magistrate judge, and a long-serving member of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. She is the author of God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life, Answering God's Call, and Praying Through Pain.


  1. I’m going to try to get your book about being called to Spiritual Direction in your 70s as the same has happened to me .At age 74 I have just completed the first year of a three year training and it has changed my spiritual life. So exciting that God hasn’t finished with me yet! Thank you!

  2. Thank you for your guidance. At 76 I have been feeling the gentle tug from God. I have come to realize that he wants something for me to do that I haven’t totally said yes too. I know he lead me along with my resistance to visit the sick in our hospital ministry. I joined my husband as EM to the hospital this year. What a sacrificial joy. But along with this he is still pushing me somewhere. So I am reading the Ignatian books and trying to follow along.

  3. Hi Barbara,
    God’s vision surpasses mine. Your pathway offered with these five steps served me as a catalyst to meet him on favorable terms. I promise to notice the glory of god more often and in deeper ways.

  4. Dear Barbara,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I am growing in faith and urgently seek spiritual direction .
    Unfortunately I could not find a Spiritual Director to help but will look at the website as mentioned.Thanks for all your dedication. If your have some advice for me I will gladly accept it.Or if you can recommend someone near in London that would be helpful.Thanks and God bless Maria

  5. Dear Barbara Lee,
    I am fascinated by your experience of being called & following through to a new ministry at 75. I too was called to a new and very challenging ministry, one year ago at 75. As a 4-year member of IVC, I (we) will be reading your book, “God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet.” Have you written elsewhere about your experience of the call and taking on the training to become a spiritual director? I often wonder how much I can still accomplish with what time is left for me here and as a ‘late-bloomer’ to the practice of my faith, I hope to maximize my output. AMDG

    • Dear Nik
      Thank you for your interest, but I regret that I’m not taking on any long-distance directees at the present time; the technical problems with Skype have proved a deterrent. May I suggest that you take advantage of the referral service on the Ignatian Spirituality website?

  6. Thank you, Barbara, not only for being an inspiration for us retirees but for the lesson to use distractions as clues to issues to bring to prayer.

    • Mary: Good point. The little nudge that “out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks”, can, also, pertain to the worries that won’t go away.

  7. Barbara, my dear friend, thanks for your encouraging words and shared insights. I have used the Ignatian Adventure as an aide during the Spiritual Exercises Retreat and found it was most helpful and thoughtful. Your sharing was also encouraging. I do hope that Peggy Cleary listens to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and discerns carefully about her thoughts of seeking out a Spiritual Direction course……I’m 75 and will begin the Spiritual Direction course offered by Creighton University this summer the very one that you trained at Barbara! I’m excited and look forward to pursuing this course of study and know it will nourish me and whoever I can share my new found skills with in the future!…thank you Barbara for this reflection!

    • Dear Mary Anne
      Thank you for your affirming comments. Starting something new at age 75 is surprising–but God never ceases to surprise us!

    • Mary Ann, thanks u for your words of encouragement. May I ask if you are taking your course on line or are you in Nebraska? I did the exercises with a group in Massachusetts given by a Franciscan nun. It was wonderful and their next course was to be a 2 year Spiritual Direction course. It was certified thru Creightin University. I loved the exercises they open my eyes and heart. Thank you and best of luck with your classes. God Bless

      • Peggy……I had 3 courses that I needed to take as prerequisites and I’ll complete the third of those requirements this March through early May…all of these were taken as a Distance Learner through Creighton…what a challenge but a simply wonderful experience! This summer I will be in residence at Creighton from early June to early July and will repeat that next year and through the summer of 2020! I’m excited to be able to do that with the wonderful support of a loving husband…he knows I wanted the experience of living within the Ignatian community during this spiritual journey…and so it will be done that way.

  8. Thank you, Barbara, this is very useful. I am so happy you have journeyed far since our book club days at Holy Family. Somtimes God reminds me that His tasks for me are not the far earth shattering ones I hold my breath for but the small ones He brings to me everyday, that I fail to be mindful of. Theresa

  9. Thank you Barbara. I am newly retired and loving the journey of finding God’s calling on my life in this chapter. Thank you for leading us in the examen. It was the theme today in Lent : The year in our Church also.

    • Dear Dorothy
      Retirement can be a great spiritual opportunity. God may be calling you to–who knows what! Thank you for your affirming comment.

  10. Thanks Barbara. I too have been wondering what more God is calling me to do. I write a weekly blog of Christian reflections so that I suppose is my ministry but is God calling me to do more? As I am now 78 perhaps I am just a crazy old man. Just have to keep listening out for the small still voice I suppose. Pax tecum

  11. Barbara, thank u so much for sharing #5. I am toying with the idea of taking a spiritual direction course but am 75 ad keep thinking, I may not even make it to the end of the course never mind use it! So thanks for sharing your journey it gave me some encouragement that maybe I am not a crazy old lady!
    God bless and may u live a very long and healthy,joyous life.


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