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The Daily Examen

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In her book, Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton says, 

“There comes a time in the spiritual life when one of the major things God is up to is to lovingly help us see ourselves more clearly… For others, our sense of worth is so fragile or our perfectionism so pronounced that we are not sure we could bear facing the truth of our own darkness without becoming completely unraveled. And yet one of the deepest longings of the human heart is to be known and loved unconditionally.”

The Daily Examen is a self-examination practice that was created to help us see ourselves more clearly — the good, bad, and ugly — in the presence of God.

What the Daily Examen Is

Before you go running for the hills, because I know this practice may sound a bit scary, let me say that the Christian spiritual practice of the Daily Examen is not a tool used for self-shaming. The purpose is not to beat ourselves up or criticize the mistakes we’ve made. 

Nor is it a time to pass the blame for our sins onto others. 

The Daily Examen is a daily practice where our awareness of God’s presence becomes so great in our lives, that we are able to give God full access to all of who we are and ask that He reveal in us the parts of ourselves and our day that still need to be surrendered fully so that we can look more like Him. 

So that we can be known by God on a deeper level and allow ourselves to know Him.

The intended heart posture of the Daily Examen is really summed up in the words of King David from Psalm 139:23-24,

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

It’s a time of entering into God’s loving care as He touches the places inside of our souls that need to be seen and perhaps healed.

As I said earlier, the Daily Examen is a daily practice, most often done at the end of one’s day, and includes silence, awareness of God’s presence, asking the Spirit to search our hearts, gratitude, recognizing failures and sin, seeking forgiveness, and then praying hopefully as we look toward the next day. 

Saint Ignatius Loyola was the one who created this Christian spiritual practice and would argue that it’s the most important time of our day. 

The 5-Step Process of the Daily Examen

Ignatius’ way of exploring self-examination follows a 5-step process that is simple to do but provides the opportunity for God to speak into your life in a major way. 

The goal of the Daily Examen is to open ourselves up to God as a way of stepping further into our own spiritual formation; the process of conforming to the image of Jesus so as to bring Him glory with our lives. 

And let’s be honest, it can be a bit difficult to bring glory to the Lord if we don’t have an awareness of our own sin and hurt in our hearts. Growth really isn’t possible without acknowledging our brokenness. 

So, with all of that being said, let’s take a look at Ignatius’ 5-step process on how to practice the Daily Examen. 

1. Become aware of God’s presence with you

As the Daily Examen is usually done at the end of the day, I would recommend finding a quiet spot alone in your home or wherever you may be. In those quiet moments of solitude, you can begin to prepare your heart to receive God’s presence by sitting in silence with your eyes closed and hands held out. Focus on the unconditional love God has for you and then choose to receive it as truth. You could even pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24 that were mentioned earlier as a way of inviting the Holy Spirit into that space.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

2. Review the day in a posture of gratitude

With your eyes still closed, and hands held out, begin to reflect back on your day. Where did you see God move? How did you hear God speak? How did you see God show up for you or for others? Take a moment and notice His presence with you throughout the day, and then offer up a prayer of thanks and gratitude. 

3. Recognize a “consolation” and a “desolation” from the day

This is the part of the process where you ask the Lord to bring awareness to a consolation and a desolation in your day. 

A consolation is considered a moment in your day where you felt most alive or most like yourself. This can be anything that brought you joy or made you feel close to God. Let that awareness sink in and praise the Lord for it and take note of how you feel. 

A desolation, on the other hand, is an experience in your day that drained your energy, frustrated or irritated you, or something that made you feel sad and alone. This can be any moment in your day that made you feel far away from God; a moment where you maybe made a mistake or sinned in some way. 

Allow yourself to feel the full weight of both your consolation and your desolation as you hold your awareness of them in the presence of God. Try not to shy away, and allow the emotions to come. 

4. Ask for forgiveness and healing

As you hold the weight of your desolation or sin before God, pray into that and ask for forgiveness or healing, or both. I know this might be intimidating to some of us and maybe even painful. But God isn’t some scary judge in the sky that’s just waiting to lay down the hammer. 

He is loving, compassionate, and kind, and while He does judge our sins, His Word tells us that He is quick to forgive those who ask,

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV)

Sin is what separates us from God. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for our sins, we can come to the Father boldly and ask for forgiveness and it will be given every single time. 

Learning how to have a humble and repentant heart is crucial to our spiritual formation and to our intimacy with God. 

Acts 3:19 tells us that repentance leads to refreshment,

 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (NIV)

Proverbs 28:13 says that when we confess our sin, we find mercy,

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (NIV)

And finally, Matthew 3:8 shows us that repentance is the key to bearing good fruit,

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (NIV)

I share these verses about repentance not to shame you, but to help you understand that admitting our sin doesn’t make us bad people. We are all inherently flawed because of sin, but it’s because of Jesus that we are made whole. 

And repentance leads to good things, my friend. That’s why I think Ignatius believed that the Daily Examen was the most important time of our day. Because it’s a chance to really take a look at the condition of our hearts in the presence of God and experience the freedom that comes from His forgiveness. 

5. Lean into hope and pray for tomorrow

Admitting our sin can feel heavy, but once forgiveness is asked for and then received, you will feel so much lighter. With the lightness that comes from forgiveness, we end the Daily Examen by leaning into hope for a new day. 

We can’t linger in our sin or regret, and we must acknowledge that we are forgiven and live from that place. That’s where our hope comes from and our ability to look ahead into the coming day. 

Take these last few moments of the Daily Examen to review the day ahead and pray over it, surrendering it to God. If you know something is happening the next day that makes you feel anxious, then share this with God and ask for His divine peace. Or, if you know tomorrow is going to be good and exciting, share that joy with Him in a prayer of thanks. 

Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us that each new day brings with it a clean slate and that’s why we can hold hope for tomorrow;

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (NIV)

Resources for the Daily Examen 

If the Christian spiritual practice of the Daily Examen is new to you, then it can be helpful for the first couple of times you engage with this practice to have some sort of resource available to guide you. 

You can definitely keep this article open during your time in the Daily Examen to remind yourself how to use it and its purpose. 

My Free Resource

But for simplicity’s sake, because I am all about simplicity, I’ve created a free resource for you in the Resource Library on my website. It’s a few pages long and includes the 5-step process of the Daily Examen and then some journal pages at the end so you can record your experience, journal any prayers, or make notes. 

Feel free to check this out, and keep in mind that you do have to be on my email list to gain access to the Resource Library because it’s in the welcome email from me that I share the password with you! 

For any current subscribers who maybe have forgotten the password, just shoot me an email at celia@celiaamiller.com and I’ll email you the password. 

Lectio365

Another wonderful way that I’ve practiced the Daily Examen is through the Lectio365 app on my smartphone. 

You do have to have a smartphone to use this app, just FYI! 

Lectio365 is a meditation/Bible reading app that has morning and nightly readings. Every night they offer a Daily Examen meditation where someone will gently guide you through the process. There have been so many nights where I’ve laid in bed, put in my headphones, and pressed play. 

It’s truly a lovely way to end your day and it’s also incredibly relaxing! The meditations not only walk you through the Daily Examen but there are also Bible verses that are read over you and a prayer at the end. 

This is one of my favorite ways to practice the Daily Examen!

Nothing to Fear

It can be a scary thing, to see ourselves more clearly in light of God’s presence. Because the reality is, that we might not always like what we see. 

But wouldn’t we rather see our hurt and our sin than ignore it?

Wouldn’t we rather give God full access to our hearts as a way toward healing and restoration? 

Taking a look at our souls on a deep level with God as our guide is how we become more like Him. 

1 John 4:18 reminds us that God is not a God of fear, but of love,

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (NIV)

The reality of who we are and who we are yet to become is only made perfect in God’s power and love. We can’t allow ourselves to diminish that process for fear of being flawed or imperfect, because the reality is, we are! 

Humbling ourselves and opening ourselves up vulnerably before a God who loves us more than anything or anyone on this earth, is how transformation, healing, and wholeness begin. 

You can approach God boldly, beloved, because you are already His. He is a loving, good, and kind Father who wants us to recognize our flaws and our need so that He can display His power within us. 

The Daily Examen is a courageous act of vulnerability that ultimately leads to deeper self-awareness and a richer relationship with Christ and others. 

And I pray that as you learn to engage with this practice, you will begin to see yourself clearly in the light of God’s presence…

Forgiven, redeemed, beloved, and made whole. 

xo,