The Examination of Consciousness is a simple form of prayer directed toward developing a spiritual sensitivity to the special ways God approaches, invites and calls.
It should be done at the end of each day, though it can be done more frequently, as the person feels drawn to it. The more frequently he does it, however, the more natural it becomes for him. Thus it becomesa way of consciousness, a way of growing into an ever-closer relationshipwith God. It can take anywhere between five and fifteen minutes. It really doesn’t matter how long one spends; the important thing is that he opens himself to recognizing and responding to God’s movements within him.
St. Ignatius suggests five steps to the Examination of Consciousness. It is important, however, that the person feels free to structure the Examination in a way that is most helpful to him. There is no right way to do it; nor is there a need to go through all of the five points each time. A person might, for instance, find himself spending the entire time on only one or two points. The basic rule is: Go wherever God draws you. And this touches upon an important point: the Examination of Consciousness is primarily a time of prayer; it is a ‘being with God.’
The five points Ignatius proposes are:
- Recall that you are in the presence of God: You are before God who loves you and welcomes you, who enlightens and guides you. Embrace the God who dwells in you, the God ever at work in you.
- Give thanks to God for his many gifts: Give thanks to God for what he has allowed you to do this day and for what you have received this day, the pleasant and the difficult, for the word of encouragement and the generous gesture, for your family and friends, for all those who challenge you to grow.
- Examine how you have lived this day: What has happened to you in your life and relationships? How has God been at work in you? What has he asked of you? And how have you responded: with generosity or self-centeredness, honesty or deceit?
- Ask for forgiveness: Ask pardon for your failures to understand or respond to others in their difficulties and pain. Ask pardon for not loving God in every part of your life.
- Offer a prayer of hope-filled re-commitment: I am aware of my weakness, yet am confident in God’s strength. I renew my commitment to follow the path that God offers me to be a source of light for all creation. ‘If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old has passed away. See, everything has become new.’ (2 Cor. 2:17)