How Do I Pray? The Daily Examen and The Way of Ignatian Prayer

How Do I Pray?
How Do I Pray?

More than 400 years ago Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits (literally meaning the society of Jesus), developed a way of praying for the purpose of helping people to find God in all things. This way of praying intentionally looks for what God is doing right now. As Christians we believe that the risen Christ is alive and active, working in His creation in every moment, drawing everything near to Himself as He Himself draws near. A wonderful way to pray is by looking for God’s presence in our lives, both individually and communally. Saint Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by prayerfully developing a technique called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a prayerful reflection on the day’s events for the purpose of detecting God’s presence and discerning His direction for our lives. The following is my best attempt to adapt St. Ignatius’s prayer for my own use. This is one way I am learning to pray as I follow Ignatius’ 5 steps and since none of us pray in a vacuum, I thought others might find it helpful as well. These certainly aren’t ideas that are original to me, they are simply my attempt to make this type of praying my own. I always pray better with a guide.

1. Become aware of God’s presence. 

Look back on the events of the day so far. Be aware that you are in the presence of the Father, revealed to us in Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t ask anything yet, just simply be aware of the Presence of God, who is with you in this very moment.

2. Review the day with gratitude. 

As you review your day, be mindful both of the things that have brought you joy as well as things that have been obstacles.  Take note of the delights as well as the struggles of the day. Ponder the work that you accomplished and the people with whom you interacted. What did you recieve from these people and things? What did you give to them? Pay atttention to both the small things and the large things for God is in the details.  What did you eat? How did you feel? Were you cold or hot? Jesus presence is both the center of our joy as well as our stumbling block at times. Cultivate gratitude for both, that God would care enough to be present in every moment, revealing Himself in the joy and struggle, knowing that His nearness is always for our good.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. 

Strive to detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. In what did you find affirmation? What did you find challenging? What caused you Boredom? Exhilaration? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? Have I been kind to others? Have I been open to growth? What is God saying through these feelings?

God might show you some ways that you have fallen short. Make note of these sins and faults but also look deeper to what these things might mean. Does your frustration possibly mean that you need to consider new directions in some area of  your life and work? Are there people who come to mind that you may need to reach out to in some way? Are there places and habits that you need to avoid? Do your emotions indicate that a change of course is needed? God’s paths will lead to wholeness so it’s helpful to examine if you are recieving wholeness or brokenness from your present path?

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

Ask the God to direct you to something during the day that is of particular importance to Him. It might involve positive and/or  negative feelings. It may be a significant encounter with another person or people. It might be a vivid moment of peace or fulfillment. It might be something that seems insignificant at first. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in prayers of intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.

5. Look toward tomorrow. 

Ask God for light to face the challenges of tomorrow. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s lies ahead. What are you experiencing about the future? Doubt? Cheer? Worry? Joyful anticipation? Allow these feelings be transformed into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Ask God to show you how to be the Christlike person that he wants you to be.

Talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen in a conversation with Jesus. Ask Him to forgive for your sins. Ask for His protection and help. Ask for His wisdom in the questions you have and the problems you are facing. Pray in the spirit of gratitude but also in complete honesty. There is nothing you can say to Him that will make Him stop loving You. Be real with God even when it isn’t pretty. God doesn’t know the person you pretend to be because that person doesn’t exist. Be who you are, who God made you to be. Every life, including yours, is a gift. If you examine your life carefully and prayerfully, you will see that it is filled with gifts from God.

End the Daily Examen with the prayer Jesus taught his disciples

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Holy is Your Name;

Your Kingdom come,Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Your’s is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.

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