Ways to Pray: Prayer of Examen

by Emily Vanden Heuvel

You might say, “I know why I should pray, but sometimes I just don’t know how to pray.” There are many ways to pray, to enter into a conversation with God, the Prayer of Examen uses prayer to slow down and savor God’s presence. The Examen is a five step prayer model through which you quiet, reflect, review, repent, and look forward while spending time with God.

Am I too busy?

How do your days start and finish? Often we are so focused on our tasks and stress we forget to spend time with God in prayer. At the end of a day, we might say, “This day went by so fast!” Or maybe it’s the other extreme: “I couldn’t wait until this day was over!” What if at the end of your day, you reflected on the day behind you and intentionally wrote out in a journal a prayer? What would you see that you had overlooked because you were too busy or too worried to notice? What parts of the day could you savor?

Examen in Five Steps

This type of daily reflective prayer is called the Prayer of Examen. There are traditionally five steps to the prayer:

  1. Quiet your mind and prepare your heart. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are in the presence of God. Put all distractions and anxiety at the feet of Jesus.
  2. Reflect with gratitude. Try to recall at least two things that happened today for which you are thankful.
  3. Review your day. Reflect on your day from start to finish, and ask these questions: “How have I seen or experienced God?”; “When did I love?”; “When did I experience love?”; and “Who needs prayer?”
  4. Repent. Pay attention to your emotions. Allow God’s grace to come into your heart. What did you do today that broke God’s law? To whom may you need to apologize? Who do you need to forgive?
  5. Look to tomorrow. What are your needs for tomorrow? Where can you ask for God’s leading in the day to come?

Savor God’s presence.

The more you practice the Examen, reflecting on each day, the easier it will be to spot God’s beauty and power. Instead of focusing on the day’s tasks or stress, use this prayer practice to savor God’s presence.

Want to explore the Examen and other ways of devotional journaling? Check out "3 Ways to Keep a Devotional Journal."