Sharon Garlough Brown on praying the examen

The prayer of examen was developed by Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century as a discipline for discerning God’s will and becoming more attentive to God’s presence. The following is an adaptation of his spiritual exercise.

Think of the prayer of examen as a way of sitting with Jesus and talking through the details of your day. In the examen we slow down and pay attention to the data of our lives. We notice our thoughts, actions, emotions, and motivations. By taking time to review our day in prayer, we have the opportunity to see details we might otherwise overlook. The examen helps us to perceive the movement of the Spirit and to discover God’s presence in all of life.

As you begin to pray, still and quiet yourself. Give thanks for some of the specific gifts God has given you today. Then ask the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your thoughts as you prayerfully review your day. Let the details play out like a short movie. Pay attention both to the things that gave you life and to the things that drained you. Notice where the Spirit invites you to linger and ponder.

These are some questions you can adapt and use in the examen:

When were you aware of God’s presence today? When did you sense God’s absence?

When did you respond to God with love, faith, and obedience? When did you resist or avoid God?

When did you feel most alive and energized? When did you feel drained, troubled, or agitated?

Having reviewed the details of your day, confess what needs to be confessed. Allow God’s Spirit to bring you wholeness, grace, and forgiveness.

Finally, consider these questions: How will you live attentively in God’s love tomorrow? How can you structure your day in light of God’s presence, taking into account your own rhythms and responses to the movement of the Spirit? Ask for the grace to recognize the ways God makes his love known to you.

Sharon Garlough Brown, Sensible Shoes: A Novel, 173.


O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and may also have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer