Some years the season of Lent can feel chaotic. In contrast, this season is designed to be a time of spiritual renewal and contemplation. Since life may throw me endless curve balls, disruptions, and changes, sometimes I need to push a pause button and take a moment to practice a spiritual discipline known as self-examen.
It is the practice of setting aside time alone with the Lord and seeking the Holy Spirit to check on my spiritual health. I decided to use Psalm 139 as a map to guide me and travel through each verse, stopping to ask these questions. These questions, created by author Ruth Haley Barton, can serve as a prayer guide that allows me to take each verse and see what God had for me there.
- Adoration, what is a way I could praise and adore God for the quality in this verse?
- Confession, what is something I need to ask God for forgiveness regarding this verse? Has God used his word to illuminate a sin?
- Thanksgiving– what do I need to give thanks for God in this verse?
- Supplication -what does this verse bring to mind that I need to pray about?
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. 19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:1-24 ESV)
Lord, would you use this practice of self-examine to “search me, O God, and know my heart.” I am easily fooled and distracted. Please send a fresh wave of your Holy Spirit to guide me. Lord, “try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” Lord, fill my mind with your truth and your guidance. Please help me to glorify you. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.
I want to thank Ruth Haley Barton for her suggestion of using this Psalm for this practice of self-examination. Check out her brilliant work on spiritual disciplines.
(Barton, Ruth Haley. Sacred Rhythms. IVP, 2006)
I would love to hear how God spoke to you through your self-examen. What did you find in Psalm 139, and what did God find in you?
*Lent falls at different points on the church calendar each year but lasts for the 40 days leading up to Easter. This year Lent 2023 begins on February 22nd. This season can invite us to take a spiritual inventory and consider taking on and giving up certain practices to make more room for Jesus in our lives.
3 thoughts on “Search Me, O God – Psalm 139”
So. What was the outcome? Did God speak to you? What was your spiritual health?
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I saw verses 5 & 6 in a fresh new way. I am so grateful to know that God does, and has hemmed me in. I believe that I have been in a season of being hemmed in by some significant challenges that have held me in place. I wasn’t able to move forward on some plans yesterday, and then new information made me grateful that I had not moved forward. God is so good in keeping me right where I need to be even when I want to move ahead. As for my spiritual health, always a huge work in process, but it was really good to pause for that 20 minutes of intentional quiet yesterday morning. By taking the pause instead of rabbiting forward, I think I really gained perspective. I need to do this on a regular basis, instead of waiting till I’m feeling desperate.
It was such a necessary pause that I did not know I needed until I got still and sat for quite a while. The focus on God’s word refreshed me and revealed how God even knows my anxieties (vs. 23). He has also known me –meaning he has always known me even before I acknowledged him. To be known completely and loved is such a joy to my soul.