The Daily Examen…a new way to enter a new year

Perhaps by now, two weeks into the new year, the resolutions made on January 1 have come and gone.  As mentioned in previous posts, for many years I was troubled at my lack of resolve and will power.  The “check list” kind of resolutions never really worked for me.

For me, rather than attempting a new list (perhaps one more manageable), I am beginning to use this time of year to reflect and meditate upon where and how God is at work.

As I look back on 2011 and ahead to 2012, many questions arise, that I believe may be more important than whether or not my check list of do’s and don’ts is complete.

Have I grown in maturity, wisdom, understanding?

Has Faith, Hope, and Love increased in my life?

Am I willing to ask others to speak into my life and be honest with me.

Did I become more irritable?   Less giving?  Has compassion given way to apathy?

I realize the difficulty in trying to discern, but I have discovered that if I take time to sit and ponder (with openness and honesty) I am able to look back on this past year and see ways in which I have grown (hopefully) and other areas that I have not.

This past week I spent a few hours in various cathedrals in Paris.  I love the atmosphere of transcendence and mystery as I embrace the Spirit of Peace.  I gaze at the stained glass, dip my fingers into the baptism fonts to remember my own, and sit looking, praying, and reflecting.  Often I will light a cancel and ask for illumination.

These moments brought me back to an earlier time in my journey when I practiced an ancient spiritual tradition called the “Examen Prayer” or “The Daily Examen”

A practice that I was first introduced to during a course on Spiritual Direction in college referred to then as The Ignatius Examen of Consciousness.

This is a wonderful spiritual discipline from the early church, practiced and made popular by the Jesuit priest St. Ignatius.The prayers and methods of praying suggested here are based on nearly five-hundred years of Jesuit spiritual tradition. They could help you grow in intimacy with God and experience Jesuit spirituality first-hand. St. Ignatius believed that he received a gift from God that not only enriched his own Christian life but was meant to be shared with others. The gift was a “method,” a way to seek and find God in all things and to gain the freedom to let God’s will be done on earth. This way of praying allowed Ignatius to discover the voice of God within his own heart and to experience a growth in familiarity with God’s will. Jesuits call this prayer their daily examen of consciousness.

The Examen of Consciousness

This is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we reflect on our day. This prayer can be made anywhere: on the beach, in a car, on the bus or metro, at home, in the library. Many people make the Examen twice daily: once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. There are five simple steps to the Examen, and what follows is just one interpretation of these five steps in discerning the movement of God’s Spirit in your day. Through this method of praying you can grow in a sense of self and the Source of self; you can become more sensitive to your own spirit with its longings, its powers, its Source; you will develop an openness to receive the supports that God offers.

1. Thanksgiving

Lord, I realize that all, even myself, is a gift from you.

– Today, for what things am I most grateful?

2. Intention
Lord, open my eyes and ears to be more honest with myself.

– Today, what do I really want for myself?

3. Examination
Lord, show me what has been happening to me and in me this day.

– Today, in what ways have I experienced your love?

4. Contrition
Lord, I am still learning to grow in your love.

– Today, what choices have been inadequate responses to your love?

5. Hope
Lord, let me look with longing toward the future.

– Today, how will I let you lead me to a brighter tomorrow?

I have found that depending on the season of life, or simply depending on the mood I am in that day, some themes are more difficult than others.  Some years, Contrition is at the heart of what I need, Others times it is thanksgiving.  Hope is always there.

My professor of Spiritual Formation taught us a simplified version of The Examen, which focusses on the #3 Examination

As a prayer:

1) How have I experienced your love today?

2) How have I loved you well?

3) How have I not loved you well?  (this implies loving others as well. Love God = Love Others.)

This resolution and daily practice is worthwhile and certainly has the potential to transform this new year, for ourselves and those around us.  May we begin this year looking back in reflection to see Go’s love and provision and grace protecting and guiding us.  May we look ahead with anticipation and excitement and pray for God’s spirit to guide us in the upcoming year.
We have begun encouraging our youth and young adults to start this new year, new week, and each new day with these prayers.  During one of our weekly gatherings, we look at the life of Saint Ignatius and set aside time individually to do the Examen.
My prayer is for a renewal desire to be saturated in God’s Word each day and to have fresh eyes and ears to witness His grace all around us.
Take, Lord, and Receive Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, and my entire will.
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I return it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
-St. Ignatius, from the end of the Spiritual Exercises

5 thoughts on “The Daily Examen…a new way to enter a new year

  1. thanks Dan… i literally just wrote on a lesson on this very thing for a christian student leadership camp… shared hearts shared vision… good things are not left alone or undone!

    miss you brother

  2. Very nice – I have been using the Examen for about 12 years now and I think it has been one of the biggest influences in my decision making. You can also download an mp3 of it on the Pray-as-you-go website. It is also one of the best ways to teach people who are new to prayer. If you are interested in exploring it further Timothy M Gallagher has written an excellent book on the Examen and how it apples to real life.

  3. I found this while looking for some other types of questions to ask during the Examen. I like the way you are presenting the simplified version here along with the comprehensive pieces that help us all to put it in context.

    I’m posting a link at soulsimple.wordpress where I am writing “Lent in everyday language” using the examen as my prayerful path towards Easter.

    My husband and I were part of an emerging church plant several years ago and I am remembering conversations with Dan Kimball … fun to see the books you are reading (some familiar and some new!)

    Many blessings to you in this journey.

  4. Pingback: Lent in everyday language. Day Eleven. « Soul Simple

  5. Pingback: Lent: March 9th | RH Huntington Beach

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