The Daytime Examen Prayer

What is “the Daytime Examen”?

The “Daytime Examen” is a short prayerful check-in with God that takes place around lunchtime.

The #1 Goal of “the Daytime Examen” = Find God in all things.

By checking-in with God sometime around the middle of the day, you can become more aware of how God has been active in all things that have happened so far in the day.

Why would you want to find God in all things? 

First, gratitude. As you grow in the ability to find God in all things, you deepen your ability to discover how God has been labouring to love you throughout your day. This results in deep gratitude. In other words, the Daytime Examen is an intentional time of allowing the Lord to tell you the concrete story of His personal love for you. Gratitude is the most important step because what God has done is far more important that what I have done. The more grateful our hearts become, the more we will want to love Him in return through both word and deed for the rest of our day:

“ It will be here to ask for interior knowledge of so great good received, in order that being entirely grateful, I may be able in all to love and serve His Divine Majesty.” — St. Ignatius, Contemplation to Gain Love

“It seems to me, in light of the divine Goodness, …that ingratitude is one of the things most worthy of detestation before our Creator and Lord… it is the cause, beginning, and origin of all evil and sins.” — St. Ignatius of Loyola   

“Gratitude is the surest and most powerful way to grow in the love of God.” — Fr. Gallagher

“For Ignatius then, the consciously chosen remembrance of God’s gifts is not just a moment in a spiritual day or simply a devout practice…. It is the heart itself of the way he understands God and relates to God. The only God he ever knew from the first moment of his conversion was the God who constantly bestows gifts of grace upon us, revealing through these gifts the infinite love with which we are loved.”  Fr. Gallagher, The Examen Prayer, 58

“Here we touch on… one of the secrets of the spiritual life that also is one of the laws of happiness. The more we cultivate gratitude and thanksgiving, the more open our hearts are to God’s action, so that we can receive life from God and be transformed and enlarged. By contrast, if we bury ourselves in discontent, permanent dissatisfaction, then our hearts close themselves insidiously against life, against God’s gift.” — Fr. Jacques Philippe, The Way of Trust and Love, 112

Second, become a contemplative in action. As you grow in the ability to find God in all things during the formal Examen prayer time, you deepen your ability to live the discerning life – to have a continually discerning heart and become a “contemplative in action” – throughout the rest of the day (an informal examen 24/7). In other words, you protect yourself against “unreflective frenzy.”

The Steps of “the Daytime Examen”

#1: Presence. 

1) Relax. After finding a good place to pray, take some deep breaths and allow yourself to relax into God’s presence.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

“Be at peace my soul…”

2) GazeI look at God gazing upon me with love as I begin this Examen. If a specific image of God is attracting my heart (eg. Divine mercy, Prodigal Son), I spend some time, without any rush, entering into this image. Tips: (1) Don’t worry if you don’t “feel” His presence. Consider it a blessed opportunity to make an act of faith in the truth that He is really present; (2) Have a favourite image nearby (on your iPhone, etc) to look at if you struggle to picture His gaze upon you.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said…” (Mark 10:21).

3) Ask. I ask the Holy Spirit to “be my coach” for this time of prayer, to reveal how the Trinity has been labouring to love me so far today, to make this Examen a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone. Remember, prayer is a gift from God, so ask for it! Tip: “[W]e may come to the examen with an event or relationship already weighing on our hearts. In these cases, we could seek enlightenment from the Lord for his perspective on our situation” (Fr. Cleveland, Awakening Love, 176).

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7).

“Come Holy Spirit, let me see this day as you see it…”

“Come Holy Spirit, show me the events of my day that you want me to see…”

“Only in the divine light which is revealed in Christ and which lives in the Church can we clearly detect our faults.” — St. John Paul II, General Audience March 14, 1984, quoted in Fr. Cleveland, Awakening Love, 175

#2: Grateful review of the day. 

1) Gratitude. “I review the day with the God whose unshakeable love I know” (Fr. Gallagher) in whatever way is easiest to recall (hour by hour or event by event), being very intentional about thanking God for all the ways that He has been actively loving me in the concrete events of the day. Tips: (1) Name & claim these blessings; (2) The more receptive you are, the more fruitful this experience will be; (3) Smile at Christ in appreciation as He gazes upon you.

“We will much sooner tire of receiving his gifts than he of giving them.” — St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter to Ines Pascual

“What most attracts God’s grace is gratitude, because if we thank him for a gift, he is touched and hastens to give us ten more, and if we thank him again with the same enthusiasm, what an incalculable multiplication of graces! I have experienced this; try it yourself and you will see! My gratitude for everything he gives me is limitless, and I prove it to him in a thousand ways.”  St. Therese of Lisieux

2) PAM: As I gratefully review the day, I am also attentive to whether I have had any prominent affective movements (PAM’s) in my heart: joy, pain, love, anger, anxiety, peace, frustration, etc. If I feel drawn to reflect more deeply on PAM, I spend some time discerning whether I responded with my “saintly higher self” or my “fleshly lower self” (click here for an explanation of these two selves):

Ask the Lord: What have been the primary things on my mind and in my heart today? Does one thing stand out? How did I respond to that one thing?

#3: Repentance, Forgiveness & Gratitude.

1) Repentance. In a heart-to-heart conversation with the Lord, to Him who loves me and respects my freedom, I repent of any inadequate and selfish responses (my responses of “love” to His Love) that I have committed so far this day.

Contrition and sorrow is a “faith experience as we grow in our realization of our dear God’s awesome desire that we love with every ounce of our being.” — Fr. Gallagher

“Even if I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go and cast myself in the arms of Jesus with a heart torn by repentance, for I know how much He cherishes the prodigal child that returns to Him.” – St. Therese of Lisieux,  C 64

2) Forgiveness. I allow the Lord to forgive me, heal me with His loving mercy, and fill me with a deep and abiding peace. Tip: Standing before the presence of Christ’s healing rays of mercy in the Divine Mercy image or receiving the Father’s tender embrace in Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son painting are helpful images to enter more deeply into this time of forgiveness.

“He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20

“He is full of joy at the sight of those who love Him and, after each fault, ask His pardon and cast themselves in His arms. He then recalls only their desires of perfection.” – St. Therese of Lisieux,  C 41

“We can only truly accept others as they are, and forgive them, when we discover that we are truly accepted by God as we are and forgiven by him. It is a deep experience, knowing that we are loved by and held by God in all our brokenness and littleness.” – Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

3) Gratitude. I thank God once again for being so good to me, blessing me abundantly in the concrete events of my day, and even in drawing a greater good out of any failings of the day. In this way, even our sinfulness draws us closer to the Lord.

“Everything works together for the good of those who love God… even sins!” – St. Augustine, quoting Romans 8:28

“The love of God turns to profit all the things that he finds in me, the good as well as the bad.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

“Jesus, I thank you for the little daily crosses, for opposition to my endeavours, for the hardships of life, for the misinterpretation of my intentions, for humiliations at the hands of others, for the harsh way in which we are treated, for false suspicions, for poor health and loss of strength, for self-denial, for dying to myself, for lack of recognition in everything, for the upsetting of all my plans.” — St. Faustina, 343

“Gratitude counteracts the tendency towards egoism, selfishness, and over-indulgence by reminding us that all we have comes from God.” – Fr. Cleveland, Awakening Love, 175

#4: Hope-filled Resolution, Praydream, & Spontaneous Affirmations

1) Hope-filled resolution. Based upon the previous steps of the Daytime Examen and knowing that the Lord joyfully anticipates the blessings He has in store for me for the rest of the day – a “future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29) – I make a specific and concrete hope-filled resolution going forward. Ask the Lord to bless this resolution and beg for His grace to carry it forward.

“Above all things, my daughter, strive when your meditation is ended to retain the thoughts and resolutions you have made as your earnest practice throughout the day. This is the real fruit of meditation… You must diligently endeavour to carry out your resolutions, and seek for all opportunities, great or small.” – St. Francis de Sales

2) Praydream. Praydream is a term by Fr. Mark Thibodeaux used to describe a form of imaginative prayer in which you visualize yourself as having reached the ideal that you desire for the rest of your day. See yourself living out virtues you desire with the same mind and heart of a role model you have…

Ask yourself: How would my “saintly higher-self” act for the rest of today? If I had the mind and heart of St. _________, how would I approach __________ later today?

3) Spontaneous Affirmations. State emotionally motivating first-person, present tense affirmations – as if the desired ideal/model/virtue is already a present reality. Include rejections of things that you were struggling with throughout the day by associating with your “lower self” too. Some examples:

Temptation to pride –> “(1) I’m not like that — (2) I’m meek and humble of heart like Christ the Servant who washed the feet of His disciples.”

Temptation to lust –> “(1) I’m better than that… that’s just my “old Adam” trying to mess things up — (2) I am pure of heart like Mary and chaste like Jesus to build the kingdom of God.”

Temptation to gluttony –> “(1) That’s not like me – (2) I am temperate and disciplined like St. Paul for the salvation of souls.”

Some Final Tips for the “Daytime Examen”

1) Keep it short. “The Examen is meant to be a simple in-the-moment check-in with God. Feel free to set an alarm in 5–15 minutes so you can “get lost” in the midst of your prayer without having to worry about coming back to daily life in due time” (Fr. Thibodeaux).

2) Give yourself freedom / Skip to the Good Parts. Allow the steps of the examen to mingle and flow together in a grace-filled way and give yourself the freedom to focus only on 1 step – Wherever God’s grace meets us, rest there until your heart is satisfied. Remember, the Examen is not for itself. Rather, it is a means to a specific end, encountering God.

“I will remain quietly meditating upon the point in which I have found what I desire, without any eagerness to go on till I have been satisfied” – St. Ignatius, SpEx 76.

“Feel free to stay with the Lord on what really moves you… If you spend your Examen time just giving thanks for one blessing, that is wonderful. St. Ignatius says that freedom is essential to prayer time.” – Fr. Thibodeaux

“There might be times when we are called to bypass the whole step-by-step format and just sit with the Lord, expressing whatever strong emotions you feel at the moment and allow Him to respond to you. This is great too.” – Fr. Thibodeaux

3) Have a gratitude list. If you struggle with being grateful, write down a list of things that you are grateful for and have it close by hand to review whenever you find it especially difficult to cultivate that attitude of gratitude. 

“We can deepen our experience of [gratitude] by preparing some lists of blessings we have received throughout our lives – the blessing of our immortal trans-physical soul made in the image and likeness of God, the blessing of our families, our many friends throughout life, our gifts and opportunities to make a positive difference and to see our and our family’s well-being, the blessing of our faith, and the Spirit’s guidance into deeper intellectual, spiritual, and moral conversion, the blessing of our many opportunities to serve and be served throughout our lives, etc. This list may prove particularly helpful when we are drawing a blank about items for which to be grateful in the first step of the General Examen.” — Fr. Spitzer, Resisting Temptation and Moral Conversion, 39

4) Don’t get stuck on sin. “The Examen is not an examination of conscience in which you prepare for Confession. It is much broader. The Examen is a holistic view on our life with the God who is labouring to love us and bless us” (Fr. Thibodeaux).

5) Try out “tweet-sized” journaling. “Journaling can be a marvellous help in our Examen experience. That being said — never write more than a word, a phrase, or — at most — a tiny paragraph. Journalling helps to keep you focused, face reality, and track your spiritual journey” (Fr. Thibodeaux).

6) Start out with only gratitude. If you are new to the Daytime Examen, just start out with thanking God for as many blessings as you can throughout the day. Don’t worry about the other steps. Eventually, integrate more as you feel comfortable.

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