Image: Josh Applegate.
One of the best things about being a part of the Catholic Church is the access we have to 2,000 years’ worth of history, traditions, and, perhaps most importantly, prayers. Countless saints, priests, and laypeople have come up with ways to pray since the Church’s inception, leaving us with the ability to communicate with God however we want. One problem with this arrangement, however, is that some forms of prayer get forgotten among the myriad of other forms. Certain kinds of prayer like the Rosary seem to be immune to this process, but one form of prayer that is becoming hugely important in my prayer life isn’t often talked about: the Ignatian Daily Examen.
First suggested by Saint Ignatius of Loyola around 400 years ago, the Daily Examen is a prayer focused on self-reflection. It is meant to be prayed near the end of the day, and it consists of five steps: becoming aware of God’s presence, reviewing the day with gratitude, paying attention to your emotions, choosing one specific feature of the day to pray about, and looking forward to the next day. It sounds simple, but this unique way to pray can have profound effects on your life.
Because of its reflective nature, the Daily Examen allows us to be honest with both ourselves and the Lord, something few other prayers naturally do. It encourages us to turn toward ourselves and present our findings honestly to God. It’s similar to an examination of conscience, but it involves more than just how often we have sinned or not sinned. This prayer asks us to go beyond our actions and examine our emotions, allowing us to become more self-aware. This heightened self-awareness, in turn, can enlighten us to a wider view of God’s will for us and the ways we either have or haven’t conformed to it. Ultimately, this means we develop our relationship with God in a unique way that improves our relationships with ourselves, too.
The idea of forming or improving our relationships with ourselves sometimes seems strange, but it’s vital to having a good relationship with others and with God. After all, what good does loving our neighbors as ourselves do if we don’t know or care about ourselves? The Daily Examen offers a unique way to get to know ourselves in a Christ-centered context. I’ve only been praying it for a few days, but it’s helped my self-awareness immensely, to a point where avoiding temptation and thinking of the Lord in my everyday life has become easier. Whether you pray the Examen daily or monthly, I’m sure it will help anyone who prays it to develop their relationship with God, others, and themselves.