Examen prayer is the Holy Spirit’s application to our lives of scriptural teachings or descriptions of holiness in order to determine where we lack and/or succeed in living a holy life.
Practicing examen as a group requires discipline, gentleness, humility, and trust. After all, it is often easier to acknowledge our faults to God, who assures us of his forgiveness (1 John 1:9), than to the human whom we have sinned against. Furthermore, it is possible for members to abuse this practice, breaking confidentiality or using confessed weakness to manipulate others. Groups should consider the strength of internal relationships and trustworthiness of individual members before asking this of one another.
On the other hand, an exercise in honest group examen can yield unparalleled depth and freedom to your community life as you confess your sins to one another and receive forgiveness and healing (Jas 5:16). Groups who are new to one another can start by practicing step 7. From there, groups may eventually explore accountability with one another, confessing weaknesses or sins for which individuals would welcome prayer support and other help. Groups who have made longer lasting commitments to one another may dig deeper for the sake of group unity by examining sins against the group or darkness between individuals within the circle.
Begin by inviting God and his Son’s sacrifice to set the example for your group (Phil 2:5–8), and ask the Holy Spirit to direct your words and your interactions with one another. Give everyone a portion of the passage to read aloud. After each one reads, wait in silence before God. Then share what he has brought to mind for confession.
Perhaps only the one who has taken his turn reading will share, trusting that the Lord guides even the distribution of the verses to the exact person who needs that verse that day. Or perhaps everyone who has heard something for that particular commandment will share. Set the ground rules ahead of time in order to avoid adding confusion to a season of prayer that may be intense already.
If confession of sin is made, and the one who has been sinned against is present, grant that person a chance to forgive the offender (Matt 5:23–24). If deeper reconciliation or restitution seems necessary, the group should come alongside the two in need (Phil 4:2–3).
Whether or not immediate reconciliation is possible, someone should answer the confession of sin with a confession of the truth about God from his promises. For example if someone recognizes and admits a tendency toward self-deception, another can remember aloud that God has granted an “antidote” to the difficulty of remembering the truth about ourselves: looking into the law of freedom and obeying that (Jas 1:22–25).
End the season of examen together by thanking God for his mercy and agreeing to receive the liberty that comes with that mercy.