Think You Don’t Have Time to Pray? Try the Examen

Sometimes it’s hard to find time to pray. Actually, most of the time. Maybe once in a while life calms down enough to lend itself to prayer, but the rest of the time, we can easily go from morning until evening barely keeping up with family, work and responsibilities, and never finding the time to talk to God.

Finding time for prayer doesn’t have to be a daunting challenge. St. Ignatius of Loyola developed a simple prayer we can say each day called the Examen. A priest recommended this prayer to me several months ago; I’ve prayed it (almost) every day since then and have found it helpful. The best part? If I have half an hour, it can fill the full half hour. If I have only 3 or 5 minutes, that’s OK – it still works.

Touching God In Prayer-
There are many different versions of the examen, but they all consist in five basic steps that came from St. Ignatius of Loyola:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence
  2. Review the day with gratitude
  3. Pay attention to the emotions and feelings you experienced
  4. Pick one particular aspect of your day or feeling/emotion you experienced and pray about it more deeply
  5. Look toward tomorrow

I love this prayer for three reasons:

1. It’s flexible. You can do it anywhere (I often do it on the way home from work or right before bed). Each day’s conversation with God can be different, focusing on the reality you face that day. If you need to dwell more one of the steps than another for a period of time, that works too. You can linger over this prayer as long as you want to or, if your in a pinch, just spend a couple of minutes using it to connect to God and make meaning of your life that day.

2. It’s inspiring, realistic, and encouraging. It helps us find where God was during the day and how he was present in our lives. That alone is enough to make each day uniquely valuable. It helps us recognize and appreciate God’s actions throughout the day. In this way, it’s more than a quick prayer – it’s a transformative prayer that gradually extends itself into all areas of life. And, for those of us that recognize our own faults and failings all too well, it’s eminently positive, rooted in an awareness of the primacy of God’s love and the fact that all aspects of our life, including our failings, can be a path to God.

3. It’s relational. There’s no formula. Nothing to recite. To even begin this prayer, you have to start talking to God. It’s not about words, but friendship. Keep doing it, and you’ll find yourself understanding God better and spending more time with him, not because you cancel the rest of your life, but because you bring him into it.

Want to find time to pray examen? Think about trying:

  • Going to bed 5 minutes later or waking up 5 minutes earlier
  • Spending a little less time online (hint: if you have time to read this blog post, you have time to do the examen – it doesn’t have to take any longer than that)
  • Incorporate it into bedtime prayer with your family
  • Pray the examen while doing a mindless task like folding the laundry

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