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Contemplating the Year: A Reflective Examen Prayer

I work at Tearfund, and we gather every week for a staff prayer session, connecting virtually with colleagues globally to lift up our work and the world in prayer.

I was tasked with guiding a personal, contemplative reflection on the last year using the Examen prayer practice. I adjusted the Examen framework to make it work for our context, seeking to create a space for everyone to thoughtfully consider the highs and lows of our year, and to contemplate on God's presence, movements and invitations throughout the year.

I've penned down the script I used for this reflection. Whether you want to reflect personally on the last 12 months, or lead a similar session in your church or group, feel free to use this script however it might serve you. Take what fits, use it as it is, or tweak it to match your style and setting.


A review mirror looking back to a road and desert



My name is …

Today, we'll engage in a practice called the Examen, a reflective prayer practice where we look back in time, reviewing our journey, seeking to recognise God's presence and discern the Spirit’s movements and invitations in our lives.

There’s a wonderful quote from Paula D’Arcy which is an intriguing backdrop to all of contemplative spiritual practice:

“God comes to us disguised as our life”

Usually the Examen is practised on a more daily rhythm - where one reflects back on the last 24 hours. But we’re going to do things slightly differently today - we’re going to use the form and shape of the Examen to reflect back on 2023.

The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. It is a practice originally developed by St Ignatius, and then practised and promoted by the Jesuits, and there’s a growing interest and incorporation within contemporary evangelical spirituality.

I recognise that some of you might be very familiar with the examen prayer practice - and for others much less so. No worries - I’ll walk you through a version of this practice in a guided step by step fashion, holding some silence for personal reflection.


So, as we begin, take a moment to settle into this space...

Close your eyes if you feel comfortable, take a deep breath, and let go of any tension you’re holding in your body.

Take a deep breath - the biggest breath you’ve taken all day.

And now just let your breath come and go naturally.

Let’s start by directing our awareness to God’s presence and loving gaze in our life. If you would be willing, I invite you to gently whisper out loud, ever so gently, to yourself: ‘I am loved.’

Perhaps remind yourself that God has accompanied you every step of the way during 2023.

Open yourself now to the presence of the Divine with you - whatever that means for you as you sit where you are now.

Loving God, may Christ find a dwelling place in our hearts through faith, as we anchor ourselves in the profound depths of love. Grant us the ability to grasp the vastness—width, length, height, and depth—so that we may fully receive a love that surpasses understanding. Fill us with the complete fullness of Your divine presence.


Now, as we embark on this journey of reflection, I invite you to consider with gratitude the last year - 12 months: Run through the year and see what memories and experiences spring to mind.

Approach these memories with gratitude.

Think of one or two things that you're grateful for.

  • What moments brought joy or peace or thanksgiving?

  • What was unexpected in your year that you experienced as a surprising blessing?

  • Is there anything that you’re grateful for now, but that you didn’t quite notice or pay attention to at the time?

Notice in your relationship with God the ways in which God is the great eternal Giver, and you are Gifted.


As we review the year, reflect on the contours and fabric of your journey. Don't worry about remembering everything, but run your mind through the year, as if playing a 'movie' of the year in your mind. But don't worry about being thorough or remembering everything. Just notice the memories, experiences and feelings that come to mind.

Acknowledge the highs and lows of your path.

  • Where did you encounter challenges, and how did you respond?

  • What were some great high moments?

  • Where was God present with you in the midst of these moments?

  • Where did you meet God, perhaps knowingly or unknowingly, perhaps even ‘disguised’ in the form of your life?

Consolation and Desolation:

Consider moments of consolation and desolation over the course of this year:

  • What have been moments of consolation for you? When you felt drawn towards God, walking with a sense of purpose, a sense of walking with and towards God.

  • What have been moments of desolation for you: times when you felt distant, or with your back turned on God, or walking away from God.

  • What actions or attitudes drew you closer to God, or were something of a block between you and God?


As we conclude, listen for God's invitation for the road ahead.

  • What is the Spirit calling you to notice or change?

  • As you look ahead, where do you want to be aware of God with you?

  • What practical steps can you take to respond to God's invitation?

You may wish to return to these questions in a journal or with a Spiritual Director, to help you take steps in response to the invitations you sense.


As we wrap up our time together, express gratitude for this time and the insights gained.

I invite you to carry these reflections with you into the day, and indeed the whole advent season.

Thank you for joining me and others in this practice.

May you walk the path ahead with an even greater sense of the loving gaze of God upon you and the Divine breath of the Creator in and with you at every step, guiding you with wisdom and surrounding you with grace. May you know, deep within, the assurance that you are cherished beyond measure and held securely in the embrace of unending love. May you walk out this day, and indeed the rest of 2023, in the light of the hope of our coming redemption.

Grace and peace to you all.




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