Psalm 139:23-24 

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

I want to point us at the beginning of Lent to these couple of verses from the end of Psalm 139. I propose that if you are looking for something to focus on during Lent this year this might be a good place to start. Let me break these verses down for you a little. 

First, this is a Psalm of David, meaning that King David wrote it. That is significant from what we know about David and how he related to God. 

We have to start with an important lesson in this Psalm about using and understanding context so that we can be able to understand these last two verses. If you tried to read them just by themselves you might come away thinking that David is praying for God to know him better. But the prayer these verses express isn’t what it seems at first reading. Given the context I believe that would be an incorrect reading .

The first 18 verses of this Psalm are all about how God already completely knows David, how he has always known him, and how God was intricately involved in his very formation. David is essentially saying that there is no circumstance that he is not completely known by God. 

If that is the case then why would David ask God to search his heart, test him, and know his anxious thoughts? It’s obvious from the first 18 verses that David believes that God already has that information in full.  That context is why I believe David is not asking God to know him better. I believe he is, in fact, asking God to help him know himself better. 

So what do you think might happen if you spend the 40 days of Lent this year expectantly praying these two verses every day? You would be asking God every day to help you know your heart and your anxious thoughts better and to help lead you out of any way you might be offending Him and into the way everlasting. 

Does that sound like a prayer God might want to answer on your behalf? 

Now you might come back and say: “Well Pastor, I just don’t have many anxious thoughts these days.” 

My response is: “That is wonderful news. How about doubts, fears, bad habits, anger, strained relationships, selfishness, or control issues? Do you have any of those you might want God’s help unpacking?” 

The point is it is in your best interest to invite God to help you know yourself better and then lead you in the right way. 

Of course, you also have to recognize that this kind of prayer should come with a warning label. The simple truth is these prayers, when vigorously applied, are dangerous. 

So if you would rather stay the same as you have always been then by all means just keep doing what you have always done. 

But if you are up for an adventure that is probably going to give you as much struggle as joy, then take the time to listen to God as He answers your prayers. Watch in awe and wonder as the God of the universe communicates with you in his own unique and sometimes whispered ways.

For those of you who don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of listening here are some of the ways you can be on the alert for God’s voice. 

  1. A scripture or scriptures you have read before leaps off the page at you or spontaneously pops into your mind. (in my experience this is by far the most common way God speaks to me)
  2. Someone, or in some instances, multiple people either point out something they notice in you or give you insightful counsel or related advice to the topic you are praying about.
  3. You have an intuition, hunch, or insight you feel strangely drawn to pursue.
  4. You hear a voice in your head speaking to you with some insight or direction. It is not uncommon for that voice to sound both like and different than your own voice. (in my experience this is the second most common way God speaks to me)
  5. You have a dream or sudden flash of intuition on the subject. 
  6. Your conscience becomes finely tuned in a certain area that it wasn’t before.

I will never forget the man in my office telling me, in all seriousness, that he was sure it was God’s will for him to divorce his wife and marry his mistress because God wanted him to be happy and his mistress made him happy. I assured him he was NOT, in fact, hearing from God. 

Which brings us to the rub of this whole subject. God can and will speak to us in all of the ways (and many more) that I have mentioned above. But because we have an experience in one of those ways doesn’t necessarily mean it is God’s voice. That is why it is so important to be discerning. The following are several important ways to discern if it is God speaking to you.

  1. Does it agree with Scripture?
  2. Have you prayed and asked God to clarify for you if it’s him speaking?
  3. Has the Holy Spirit witnessed with your spirit and given you an unusual peace?
  4. Share what you feel God is saying to you with some folks who are mature in the faith and ask for their impressions. 
  5. Be aware of the difference between messages that convict you and call you to repentance (which can be very uncomfortable in the moment) and those that condemn and bring shame. Shame and condemnation are almost always the tools of the enemy of our souls. 
  6. The message you are hearing from God contains both grace and truth and is in alignment with Scripture.

Once you have, with reasonable certainty, identified God’s voice commit to obeying it

So what do you say? Are you up for a Lenten season of learning about both God and yourself? Are you willing to risk what you might find that you don’t like for what you might gain that you will love and will serve you well?

Remember, in the real world of growing in Christ there are no shortcuts, and it’s not magic. We have to do the work. God can’t be mocked, we will reap what we sow. So why not sow for 40 days of getting to know God and yourself better this Lent?

At least think about it. 

Yours in the journey. . .Pastor Tim