By Alison Smith

An Invitation to Examen

Practicing the discipline of examen

Lately, two verses have been among my favorite in Scripture. The first one is from Genesis 2:25: “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” It speaks to the way God intended our relationships to be, with each of us being completely known and accepted.

The second is from John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” It speaks to the incarnation, the moment our Creator God put on skin, bones, and blood and entered into humanity so that we could fully know him and be holistically restored and renewed.

I long to be completely known and accepted. Yet, like most humans, this is also something I fear—all of my junk, my insecurities and mess, being known and fully exposed. In this longing, I stumbled upon a spiritual discipline that speaks, on the one hand, to my desire to be known, and, on the other, to my self-protective instinct to isolate and hide who I truly am.

You’re probably familiar with common spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible reading, or going on retreats. But there are many more disciplines that help us deepen and develop our relationship with God and others, including a number of disciplines that focus on contemplation, self-examination, and silence.

These types of disciplines seem counterintuitive to feelings of loneliness or the desire to be known. But I’ve found that contemplation and solitude help me to know and be known by God, which in turn frees me to be more exposed and known by my community.

Knowing God & Myself More Deeply

The discipline of Examen is an ancient church practice of reviewing our day with God. But the purpose of Examen is not to analyze your day. Rather, it helps us pay attention to where God seemed present and where he seemed absent, where we experienced love and gratitude and where we missed opportunities to extend God’s love.

Examen has drawn me more deeply into knowing God and myself. Through it, God has increased my gratitude and contentment while decreasing my anxiety and tendency to struggle with hope. It has also deepened my relationships with others.

About six months ago, while asking the question, “Where did God seem absent?” I realized that I thought God was absent in my husband. We were in a difficult season in our marriage, marked with many fights and an abundance of misunderstanding and bitterness. Through the practice of Examen, I was able to recognize the lie I was believing—that God was absent in my husband—and confess it. I realized that I had been withholding love from him and missing out on opportunities to encounter God in my marriage.

Is God inviting you to know him more deeply? Are you longing to be fully known—“naked and without shame”? I challenge you to try Examen this week. Perhaps God has an invitation for you in this prayer. 

Prayer of Examen

At the end of your day, grab a journal or talk about these questions with God. I like to do this right before I go to bed.

  • For what am I most grateful today? Where did God seem especially near or present?

Offer thanks and praise to God for these moments.

  • For what am I least grateful today? Where was it hard for me to be aware of God? Where did God seem distant?

Talk about these with God but don’t feel like you have to figure them out or analyze them. Simply be honest with God about how you’re feeling.

  • Where did I receive the most love?

Offer thanks and praise to God for these moments.

  • Where did I receive the least amount of love?

Share these situations openly and honestly with God without trying to analyze them or feel like you have to figure them out.

  • Where did I give the most love?

Rest in the truth that God is pleased with your efforts.

  • Where did I withhold love or miss opportunities to extend love?

Share these openly with God. Confess your lack of love and ask for forgiveness.

End your time by talking with God about any lingering moments from your day. Rest in the knowledge that God is present with you and release the events of the day to God’s care. Ask God to help you start fresh for the next day.

My hope for you is that you can know God more deeply and respond to our human desire to be known. May you experience the incarnation of Jesus—the mystery of the God of creation entering into our mess to bring renewal, transformation, and hope.


Alison Smith is on staff with Greek InterVarsity at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a member of Pi Beta Phi for women. She loves reading, singing, rocking out in her car to cheesy pop music and NPRand going on adventures with her husband.

Image by Matt Kirk.


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