What does it really mean for God to search our hearts?
Psalm 139:23-24 says:
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
I make this my prayer often, but if you’ve prayed this too and feel like you aren’t really sure what to do beyond saying a prayer, today’s post is for you!
When I was reading Ronnie Floyd’s book called The Power of Prayer and Fasting, he shares something called Inventory of the Heart. (Side note: If you’re looking for a quick primer on fasting, check out this blog post, this podcast, or chapter 14 in Pray Confidently and Consistently.) It’s sort of like a checklist to review prayerfully as he’s fasting and I think it’s worth sharing for a few reasons:
- Like he said, it’s easy to ask God to search our hearts, hop up and forget all about it.
- Also? We can do a lot of introspective thinking and navel-gazing. We’re searching alright, but it may take the form of a more selfish or even shame-filled approach. What if we searched our hearts in the presence of our Father?
So with that said, I’m going to share the verses and a few of the questions he shares.
1. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- Do I worry about anything?
- Have I forgotten to thank God for all things, the seemingly bad as well as the good?
2. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20
- Do feelings of inferiority keep me from serving God?
- When I do accomplish something of merit, do I choose to give myself, rather than God, the glory?
3. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
- Have I believed it’s good enough to live my Christianity in a casual manner and that it’s not all that important to share the good news of my deliverance with others?
4. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” – Romans 12:3
- Am I overly proud of my accomplishments, my talents, my family?
- Do I have difficulty putting the concerns of others first?
- Do I have a rebellious spirit at the thought that God may want to change me and rearrange my thinking?
5. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” – Ephesians 4:31
- Do I complain, find fault, argue?
- Do I nurse and delight in a critical spirit?
- Do I carry a grudge against believers of another group, denomination, or theological persuasion because they don’t see the truth as I see it?
6. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” – 1 Corinthians 6:19
- Am I honoring God with my lifestyle and body?
7. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may givegrace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29
- Do I use language that fails to edify others, tell off-color jokes or stories that demean another person’s race, habits or culture?
- Do I condone these comments when guests are in my home or when my colleagues share them with me at work?
8. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26-27
- Do I ignore the fact that I open myself up to Satan when I participate in ungodly practices, psychic predictions, occult literature, and violent, sex-driven, sexually perverse movies and videos?
9. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” – Romans 12:11
- Am I chronically late in paying my debts, sometimes choosing not to pay at all?
- Do I charge more on my credit cards than I can honestly afford to pay?
10. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” – 1 Peter 2:11
- Am I guilty of a lustful eye toward the opposite sex?
- Do I fill my mind with sexually-oriented TV programs, lewd movies, unsavory books, and magazines?
11. “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” – Colossians 3:13
- Have I failed to forgive those who may have said or done something to hurt me?
- Have I written off certain people as not worthy of my friendship?
12. “So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:28
- Do I know in my heart that I am often not what people see?
- Am I hiding behind being active in my church as a cover for my activities away from the body?
13. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
- Do I enjoy listening to conversations that hurt others?
- Do I pass it on?
- Do I believe rumors or partial truths?
If you read through this thinking to yourself that it would be easier to mark off the things that weren’t a struggle than what was a struggle, you aren’t alone. This is why we need a Savior. And if anything, this should remind us of why we’d never want to try to walk throughout life without constantly being in communication with God. We desperately need Him. And sadly, in our pretty comfortable USA, we forget that more than we’d care to admit.
But not only that, we need to process these things with God. The goal isn’t to put a checkmark next to everything you need to be working on. Instead, go to God in prayer with all of this because the heaviness of our sins is honestly too much for us to try to carry. God says His burden is light but we sure like to pile on more things on and make it feel heavier than necessary.
- Evelyn Christenson suggested praying through 2 Timothy 3.
- Jerry Bridges wrote a book called Respectable Sins that would be helpful.
- W. E. Sangster had a Spiritual Checkup. Adaption found here.
- We shared a Business Prayer Audit here.
- 30-minutes a day prayer format here.
What do we do with what we find as we search our hearts?
We don’t deny its existence and we also don’t carry around the shame of it just because we think God wants us to feel bad for it. He doesn’t. We, instead, confess it to God. We lay it all at His feet and pray for God’s transforming power to work in our lives. Then we thank Him profusely that He’s willing to know us so intimately, love us unconditionally, and transform us completely.