WOH: The Daily Examen

Our whole family often jumped into learning what Dad was learning. He was so infectious and enthusiastic; he inspired us to understand what he was learning. One of his favorite spiritual teachers was Ignatius of Loyola. Dad loved to talk about Ignatius — his life as a soldier, his conversion, his time in Spain, and his love for prayer. 

I became curious about Ignatius as well. Because of Dad’s lead, I had read and become familiar with Ignatius’ spiritual disciplines. Now, I love the daily Examen, a time Ignatius outlined as a simple prayer of communion with God. At its most basic core, the Examen is a time to discern when we felt closest to God or furthest from God during the day. Ignatius believed that emotions were not abstract but key ways to lean in closer to God. For Ignatius, God was present with us in the feelings of joy, hope, compassion, and some other spirit was in the feelings of despair, hatred, bitterness, selfishness, and fear. Ignatius believed God worked through his emotions to give important messages— slow down, listen more, beware, or take the next step.  

Negative emotions were signals to be careful, watch what to say, or proceed with caution. Inner joy and peace were emotions that signaled the next step. In his book A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, author Jim Manney writes that Ignatius realized that his feelings, not his thoughts, led him in the correct direction during his recovery. When he imagined life of military service, he felt depressed; when Ignatius imaged a life of following Christ, he felt peace and joy. By asking God what our feelings communicate to us, we make our feelings vehicles of grace instead of something frustrating to suppress and silence.

Some questions to ask:

Ask God to reveal what is behind the emotion you are feeling.

Where does this emotion originate?

What does this tell you about yourself and the way you live?

What might God want you to do about it?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious concerns, see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24