by Natalie LaValley

When our prayer lives feel flimsy, sometimes it helps to try one of the time-honored spiritual disciplines begun by early Christians and still practiced today. This week, we’ll look at the Daily Examen. This prayerful meditation can be done in a few minutes at the end of a busy day or first thing in the morning, to reflect on the previous day. I’ve personally found it to be a powerful tool for my spiritual growth and emotional well-being. There are different approaches to the Examen, but the fundamental aim is simply to prayerfully reflect on your day’s highs and lows, concluding with confession and praise. Here are the five steps I learned for praying the Examen.

  1. Acknowledge you are in God’s presence. Take a moment to become aware that God is in the room with you. He has been with you the whole day, and therefore you can be completely honest and vulnerable before Him.
  1. Pray for discernment.Ask God to help you review your day with honesty and discernment. Invite Him to bring to mind anything important.
  1. Review your day.
  2. By tracking these moments, you will begin to notice patterns, both positive and negative. Perhaps a pattern of activities that made you feel alive and fulfilled can help reveal your spiritual gifts or calling. Perhaps you’ll also notice a pattern of behavior that you’re dissatisfied with, revealing a stronghold or unhealthy habit. For example, I may notice over a few weeks that I frequently felt best while taking a walk outside, which may indicate that I should make walking a daily habit. At the same time, I may notice that I’m most unhappy when I habitually bury resentment and don’t communicate openly. This pattern would indicate that I need to make real, tangible changes in that area.It would be overwhelming to examine every moment of the last twenty-four hours. Instead, think of when you were at your best and at your worst. When did you feel the most alive, most yourself, most fulfilled? When did you feel dead, anxious, or out of sorts? You can also think of these as moments of “consolation” and “desolation”: in what moments or activities did you seem to be abiding in Christ, and when did you seem far from Christ?
  1. Confess.Confess your failures to God. A critical part of this section is actually taking action to reconcile with someone or change your behavior (in other words, “repenting,” which means “turning back”). Ask yourself: what can I do to change? Is there someone I should apologize to? If a particular struggle is overwhelming, should I find an accountability partner or a mentor?
  1. Give thanks.Praise God for the highlights of your day and for being with you, forgiving you, and loving you even during the low points.

And that’s it. You can make this meditation as long or short as needed. You can use a journal or pray on your knees. However you do it, the Daily Examen helps you to become self-aware of your patterns, process your joys and hardships, and to remember that God has been with you through every moment of your day.

To dig deeper into the Examen and other spiritual disciplines, you can get the Christ Habits collection, which works well for Bible study groups or personal study. You can also click here or below to download this free outline of the steps in the Daily Examen to use during your devotions.

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