O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
Psalm 139:1-6 (NLT)
The God who created you and loves you, sees you, and knows everything about you. In the midst of our daily life, it is easy to miss His love and activity in our lives unless we choose to look. In our journey with Jesus, it is helpful to carve out time and create a rhythm of reviewing our days to be more aware of God’s movement in our life and our responses to Him.
“The Examen is a practice for discerning the voice and activity of God within the flow of the day.” Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us
The heart of the Examen is a spiritual practice of looking back over each day (or designated time period) with an intentionally increased awareness of God’s activity and our responses. Through this practice, we learn to discern when and how we move toward God or away from God. In time, we will be able to recognize God’s presence more easily in our day, helping us to move toward Him and respond more quickly to His loving direction in our lives.
Traditionally, the Examen is practiced at the end of the day, reflecting back on the day. Some find it more beneficial to start their day with this prayer practice, considering the previous 24 hours. Feel free to determine when would be most helpful to you by trying both. You also might find it meaningful to record your time of Examen in a journal which will allow you to look back over a longer period of time and notice patterns in your experiences of God.
Let’s practice the Examen together
1. Recall you are in the presence of God.
Being aware of God’s presence helps keep this a prayerful practice instead of it being simply a thought exercise. Prepare to look back on the events of your day in the company of the Holy Spirit by being aware of God’s presence both around you and in you. The day may feel like a blur or jumble to you. Ask God to bring clarity and to help you notice the events or moments of your day from His perspective.
2. Look at your day with gratitude.
After a few moments, begin to give thanks to God for the gifts of today. Special pleasures will spring to mind: a good night’s sleep, the smell of the morning coffee, the laugh of a child, a good meal or lesson learned. As you move in gratitude through the details of your day, give thanks to God for his presence in the big and the small things.
3. Ask help from the Holy Spirit.
Ask that God’s Spirit might help you to look at your actions and attitudes. Ask for help to understand the motivation of your heart, to see the gifts of God, and how you’ve responded to them. Ask that you’d learn and be shaped as you reflect. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings. Rather, it is a gentle look at how you have responded to God’s gifts. It is an opportunity for growth of self and in relationship with God.
4. Review your day.
Here you review your entire day, watching it like a movie that replays in your mind. Be sure to notice the details, the context of what happened, and how you acted. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something from the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may be an obviously significant moment or something that seems insignificant at first glance. It may involve a feeling - positive or negative. Pay attention to if it moved you toward God or away from God.
Spend some time reflecting on that part of your day. Allow a response to rise in prayer – possible responses could be praise, repentance, gratitude, intercession…
5. End with giving thanks for the day.
Thank God for what He revealed during your prayer of Examen and look toward tomorrow. Invite God to lead and guide you and draw you toward Him.
The Examen with your family
Each evening as you gather for dinner have the family share from their day.
• What was a highlight in your day?
• What didn’t go so well?
• Where did you see God at work today?
This Examen guide is adapted from the Covenant’s Growing Deeper practice of Reviewing Your Day. The full guide can be found at https://covchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2010/05/Reviewing-Your-Day.pdf