Conversatio Divina

The Examen Prayer of St. Ignatius

Jesuit Institute of South Africa

Through the steps below you can experience this “method” of growing in a sense of self and the source of self. You can grow more sensitive to your own spirit—its longings, its powers, its Source, and you will develop an openness to receive the supports God offers.

“Love consists in a mutual sharing of gifts.”

(Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius)

“Lord, lover of life, your imperishable Spirit is in all.” (Wisdom)

01.  Recall you are in the presence of God

No matter where you are – hilltop or valley, country or city, in a crowd or alone – you are a creature in the midst of creation. The Creator who called you forth is concerned for you. The Spirit of God, sent by Christ, will remind you that you are gifted to help bring creation to its fullness, to restore it to the Creator’s way. Ask the Holy Spirit to let you look on all you see with love.

Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, … it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right… Love hopes all things. (1 Cor)

02.  Give thanks to God for favours received

Pause and spend a moment looking at this day’s gifts. Be concrete! Recall the taste of jam on toast, the fragrance of a flower, the smile brought forth by a kind word, an act of patience that gave someone ease. Take stock of what you received and gave. Notice these clues that guide living.

Now look at your more permanent gifts that allow your participation in this day. Recall your particular strengths is times of difficulty, your ability to hope in times of weakness, your sense of humour and your life of faith, your intelligence and health, your family and friends. God the Father gives these to you to draw you into the fullness of life. The Father sent the Son, Jesus, to assure us that God’s kingdom is being established. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us as we receive and bring life to others.

Pause in thanksgiving.

03.  Now examine how you are living this day

Recalling the events of your day, explore the context of your actions. Review the day, hour by hour, searching for the internal events of your life. Look through the hours to see your interaction with what was before you. Ask what you were involved in and who you were with, and review your hopes and hesitations. Many situations will show that your heart was divided – wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, rebuking and forgiving, speaking and silence, neglecting and thanking. See the opportunities for growth in faith, hope and charity and how you responded. What moved you to act the way you did?

Notice where you acted freely – picking a particular course of action from the possibilities you saw. See where you now sense you were swept along without freedom. This “method” is to give you habits of freedom. What habits helped or hindered you? See where Christ entered your decisions and where you might have paused to receive his influence. “Test yourselves,” St Paul urges, “to see whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves. Perhaps you yourselves do not realise that Christ Jesus is in you.” (2 Cor) His influence comes through his people, the body of Christ. His influence comes through scripture, the word of God. Now, as you pray, Christ’s spirit will help you know his presence and concern.

As you daily and prayerfully explore the mystery of your self in the midst of your actions you will grow more familiar with your spirit. You will come to know that Christ is with you. Christ will continually invite you to love your neighbour as yourself and strengthen you to do this.

04.  Pray words of reconciliation and resolve

“The Word of God is very near to you, it is your mouth and in your heart for your observance. See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster… Choose life, “speaks the prophet. (Deut 18)

Now, having reviewed this day of your life, look upon yourself with compassion and see your need for God and try to realise God’s manifestations of concern for you. Express sorrow for sin, the obscuring darkness that surrounds us all, and especially ask forgiveness for the times you resisted God’s light today.

Give thanks for grace, the enlightening presence of God, and especially praise God for the times you responded in ways that allowed you to better see God’s life. In these acts of sorrow and gratitude you grow in knowledge of God’s gentle labour for you. “as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in mine.” (Jer 18:6)

05.  A final reflection

Growth in friendship and intimacy needs time and constant attention. Try to give 10 to 15 minutes daily to this examination.

Cover all 5 points daily with a freedom to linger more at one point than another, as the Spirit moves you.

Notice how you grow in appreciation for the variety of vocations: marriage, priesthood, religious life among the people of God.

Pray that all hear God’s call and respond generously to the vocation. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…”


What have I done for Christ?

What am I doing for Christ?

What am I prepare to do for Christ in the future?


The Jesuit Institute South Africa is a ministry of the Society of Jesus. It specializes in training spiritual directors and directors of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius pf Loyola. The Institute also offers retreats in various formats—3, 5, 8 days—and, the Spiritual Exercises in the 30-day and daily life format. A number of the staff publish regularly on Ignatian Spirituality and offer commentary on the Church and world through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality.