The examen is an examination of conscience done once or twice a day. There are five steps to it:
1. Give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits I have received.
2. Ask for grace to know my sins and rid myself of them.
3. Ask an account of my soul from the hour of rising to the present examen; first as to thoughts, then words, then deeds.
4. Ask pardon of God our Lord for my faults.
5. Resolve, with his grace, to amend them. Close with an Our Father. (Spiritual Exercises, 43)
Done faithfully, this will make us aware of our sins, both venial and mortal and uncover patterns of behavior. By being open before God he can help us discover the roots of our failures. Through prayer, we are given the grace to pursue holiness in our daily life, not sin.
The examen is not meant to be navel gazing or self-flagellation. It is meant to be an honest dialogue between you and God, who wants very much to heal you and offer you his love. We cannot hide our sins from God though we often try. God cannot be fooled.
As Paul tell us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we are clearly apparent to God, and I hope we are also apparent to your consciousness. (2 Cor 5:9-11).
It is for our own benefit to know who we are and how God sees us. By praying the examen with truth and humility, our soul grows closer to our father and in turn, we can draw others to him.