June 05, 2024

The Prayer of Examen: Prayer for Your Every Day

By Pre-Dr Casey Shirley 

1O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?

PSALM 139:1-7 ESV

What kind of day did you have?

Have you ever had a day that was so hard, so overwhelming, and frustrating that you don’t want to give it another thought? You just want to crawl under a blanket with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and dive into the deepest YouTube rabbit hole you can find until your eyes glaze over and you finally fall asleep. But not a deep restful sleep, rather the kind of sleep where you know the only thing you’ll feel when you wake up is regret. Only to have it start all over again tomorrow.

What about a really good day? Could be your graduation or wedding day. Or maybe a day where everything seems to just fall into place. Where God’s grace seems to seep into every nook and cranny. The conversations you have with co-workers are life-giving, you’re acknowledged for hard work, your children’s clothes are clean, and their lunches are packed. And for some reason you are the funniest and most likeable version of yourself. These are the kinds of days that we can’t wait to tell someone about.

But the reality is that most of our days aren’t especially bad or especially good. They are just days that come and go, with demands that require our time and attention.

At the end of our day, we don’t tend to give much thought to what happened and why.

What if reflecting on our day with God meant that we would, slowly but surely, have a better tomorrow?

Not because we’re tapping into some unique tip or trick to optimize our lives for the sake of self-improvement. But because when we reflect on our day with God, we’re more likely to recognize where He was at work in us and around us. Like the Psalmist says, God knows our every move and His Spirit is with us wherever we go.

What if God is far more active in our lives than we give Him credit for? What if He’s doing far more than we realize? What if there were a way to notice where He’s at work and more intentionally partner with Him in that work?

God is at work in more ways than we often realize.

When we slow down to think about our day with God from the very beginning, from the moment we open our eyes all the way to laying our head on our pillow at night, we begin to see where He was at work in ways we didn’t recognize.

Maybe it was the unexpected encouragement we received from a co-worker or that first sip of coffee in the morning. We will also begin to see the ways we resisted and cooperated with the invitations from God to walk in step with His Spirit.

When we look back on our day with God, it’s not about feeling better or worse about ourselves. That’s what happens when we look at our day without God, in the absence of grace. But when we look at our days with Him, we can see the areas where we succeeded and failed and invite an awareness of God’s grace to every moment. And as we become more aware of Him and His activity, we become more intentional carriers of His presence. This isn’t just for our benefit, but for the benefit of everyone around us.

The Prayer of Examen

The practice of reviewing your day with God the way that I’m describing is called the prayer of examen. And truth be told, this is a practice that I don’t do as regularly as I would like to. But every time I do, I fall asleep with more peace and wake up with more anticipation of the Spirit’s activity in my day-to-day life.

So how? Well, it’s pretty simple.

1. First, invite God’s Spirit to guide you as you review your day with Him.

Replay your day like a movie in your head. Start with the moment you woke up. (Sometimes I have a hard time thinking about my day in general until I go back to the beginning and get specific.) You can take as little or as much time as you want to think back over your day.

2. As you reflect, stay aware of the movements of your heart throughout the day.

Identify the moments where you felt energized or at peace. Where did you feel happiness or joy? Was there a moment where you responded to others in love or service? Thank God for the things He brings to your awareness.

Identify the moments where you felt frustration, impatience, or anger. Where could you have handled a situation better? Was there a moment that you felt led by the Spirit to do something that you ignored? These are often the moments that we want to explain away or make excuses for. Instead, bring your sin out in the open to God who loves you, confess them to Him, pray a prayer of repentance, and receive His grace.

3. Finally, ask Him to help you see and experience His presence more clearly tomorrow.

Commit to walk with humility, yielding to Him at every turn, confident His invitations to obedience are for your good. When practiced over time the prayer of examen has the potential to radically transform the way we experience God on a day-to-day basis and to transform us as we intentionally cultivate an awareness of His presence.

Here’s a sample or guide to use to get started praying the prayer of examen.

God, You hold all my days. You have been with me in my waking and sleeping, in my coming and going. I slow down now to listen to Your Spirit as I reflect on where You’ve been at work in my life over the last 24 hours.

Pause for reflection.

I take a moment now to reflect on ways that I experienced joy today and to thank You. I reflect on the times I heard the invitation of your Spirit to love and respond in the way You desire. I reflect on the ways that I experienced Your kindness in ways that I am just now recognizing. From supplying my every need, to helping me endure hard situations, to the unexpected joy of hearing my favorite song or a good meal.  

Pause for reflection.

I take a moment now to reflect on times that I experienced frustration or anxiety. Were there moments that I resisted You and your grace? Where You extended an invitation for me to think differently about a situation or respond differently to a fellow image-bearer? I bring my sin before You now in repentance and receive Your grace, healing, and forgiveness afresh, as I surrender to Christ my King and stand in His righteousness alone. 

Pause for reflection.  

Father, thank You. Thank You for being faithful and true, for leading me in paths of righteousness for Your namesake. I commit the day that has passed to You, and I ask for the grace to see that You are with me, and how You are at work in my tomorrow. Amen.



Looking for a Church Home?

Our Churches >