With so many forms of prayer out there, and so little time in this fast-paced world, why bother praying the Examen? At times, I end up viewing this prayer as yet another task in a long list of things I have to get done. Yet I find that when I let it slide for a while, I start to feel a little “off.” Perhaps more as a means of reminding myself why I love the Examen (besides it being my first introduction to Ignatian spirituality), I propose three reasons why one should bother making it a prayer priority.
- Awareness of Jesus: A key part of the Examen is walking through the day with Jesus and seeing it as Jesus did. That reflection back on the day highlights where God was active in our day and how we responded to God. Over time, patterns might also help us become aware of a particular calling that maybe we didn’t see so clearly before.
- Self-awareness: Sometimes I don’t like what I see when I watch the “highlight reel” with Jesus. While that can be uncomfortable, it also allows opportunity for growth and to seek the grace and courage to make changes in our lives when needed. The “highlight reel” also draws attention to what we did that brought a smile to Jesus’ face, and that feels really good.
- Flexibility: I can imagine that if St. Ignatius did a Web search for “Examen” today, he would be thrilled to see that his prayer has been adapted to fit so many different lifestyles and scenarios. There are Examens for those at work, for those discerning vocations, for those just starting out on their spiritual journey, for children, and even for those who simply don’t have oodles of time. My particular favorite “Examen lite” is Andy Otto’s deck of cards, with each card posing a question that might be pondered in the context of the Examen; just pull a card from the deck when one has a few minutes free.
St. Ignatius gave us a great tool in the Examen to enrich our relationship with God and with those around us. Whether we have hours to devote to prayer each day or a stolen couple of minutes here and there, why not pray the Examen?