The next four weeks has the potential to fundamentally change our lives because we are going to learn four simple and yet dangerous prayers. Most of us pray pretty safe prayers. We ask God to bless us. We ask God to help us. We ask God to watch over us and protect us. We ask God to provide for us and for our families. These are all good prayers and they are worthy of being prayed, but they are safe. They don’t really stretch us or move us to places that might be difficult or uncomfortable – they are safe. They ask God to bless and help us in what we are doing and don’t move us toward who God wants us to be and what God wants us to do. What I want to invite us all to do over the next month is to start praying some dangerous prayers – prayers that will force us to face the reality of who we are, how we are living and how our lives need to change.
These four prayers come to us from King David and while he was known as a man after God’s own heart – he was far from perfect. David had many great failures in his life and he faced all kinds of accusations from his enemies. Many believe that David wrote these prayers later in his life when he was being accused of many things and instead of David defending himself he asked God to help him make sure that his motives and actions where pure. Several times during his life David did this and the prayers he prayed were dangerous because they forced David to deal honestly with the totality of his life – his desires, his thoughts and his actions. These prayers also moved David closer to God’s heart and invited God to be part of his life which is why he was known as a man after God’s own heart. It wasn’t because he was perfect it was because he allowed God to shape his heart and life.
The 4 prayers we are going to learn to pray come from Psalm 139:23-24. Search me, O 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. The four prayers we are going to learn about and pray are these:
Search my heart.
Test my thoughts.
Seek out my sin.
Lead my life.
Search my heart. It might seem strange to ask God to search our heart because the truth is that God already knows our heart. David even made this clear in the first part of Psalm 139. Psalm 139:1-10. If God knows everything about us and is with us in every moment of every day and even knows our thoughts and words before we do – why do we have to ask God to search us? We ask God to search us not so that God will find what is there but so that God will reveal what is there to us. Our asking God to search us is for our benefit and with the understanding that what God finds there God will show us.
This prayer is dangerous because we are asking God to enter into our hearts with a spotlight to make known to us our motives, passions and desires. This prayer is asking God to shine a light on those things that we often try to keep in the dark and avoid and the reason all of this is important is because the heart is deceitful. We like to think that our hearts are good an honest but God says in Jeremiah 17:9 – the heart is deceitful above all things.
Our hearts are deceitful, they lie but they don’t lie to others, they lie to us. It’s our heart that tells us we are better than we really are. It’s our heart that tells us we care more than we really do, that we have forgiven more than we really have and that we love others more than ourselves. It’s our heart that tells us we work harder than others and that all our answers, motives and attitudes are right.
It is a deceptive heart that says, I have all my desires under control and I don’t struggle with addictions, materialism and gossip. It’s because our heart deceives us, it is because we are so good at keeping in the dark the things we don’t want to deal with or even admit, that we need to pray, search me, O God, and know my heart, so that we can understand what it is we really love in life, and make the changes we need to before our darkened and deceptive hearts lead us to destruction.
When we ask God to search our heart we are not only asking God to show us the truth about ourselves but we are also asking God to show us what it is that we really love, and this is dangerous because for many of us what we really love in life is ourselves.
Pride is loving ourselves more than others and it is a disease of the heart we all struggle with. The disciples James and John walked with Jesus for several years listening to him teach about loving others and being a servant and putting the needs of others before their own. James and John watched Jesus serve and love others first and yet after two years of being with Jesus they asked him to grant them what they wanted – which was positions of power and authority at Jesus’ right and left hand. They thought so highly of themselves that they ignored all the teaching of Jesus about humility and they pushed aside his examples of sacrifice and service. Pride affects us all. Thinking that we know all the right ways, and do all the right things and deserve all the best in life is an expression of self-love and it is often what our heart tells us which is why it is so important for us to ask God to shine the light of His truth into our hearts to uncover our true motives.
Anger is another love that God may uncover when he searches our heart. It may sound strange to think of anger as a love, but it is, it is a love of self. When we are angry with someone it is usually because we have been hurt or offended or someone didn’t treat us the way we wanted or thought we deserved to be treated. When we hold on to anger we are holding on to pride and a love of self that says we deserve an apology and someone else has to come and make things right with us. While there are very real hurts and offenses in life, if we choose to hold on to anger it is because we think highly of ourselves and just don’t want to let that go. If we can see how anger is caught up in pride and love of self then maybe we can begin to let it go and find peace and healing.
When God searches our heart, he might also shine his light on lust and once again lust is not so much a love or desire for someone or something else, it is a love of self. Lust is a hunger and desire for us to get what we want. It is a love of self instead of a love for God or others and it is a self-love that drives us to words, actions and patterns of behavior that destroy families, jobs and our health.
When we ask God to search our heart it means that a strong light will shine on all the ways our heart deceives us and it will reveal to us all the ways we love ourselves first. It is dangerous to pray this prayer because once these things are seen and revealed we have to deal with them. It’s not easy or comfortable to see those things we don’t want to own up to, but God points them out to us for our own well-being. God doesn’t search our heart and reveal these things because he wants to condemn us and shame us, God searches our heart and reveals what it is we really love and how we really live because he loves us and wants more for our lives.
In John 3:17 Jesus said, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. As important as John 3:16 is to our faith, so is this verse. God searches our hearts and points out what we often want to ignore not to condemn us and make us feel small and unworthy, God shines his light on these things because God wants to save us from where that life will lead. A life spent loving only ourselves and living a lie is not filled with any peace or joy because we always have to hold up the façade of who we are and we will always end up wanting more.
When I graduated from college, I got a job at a cable TV company and decided I wanted to change my name so I told everyone that while my name was Andrew everyone should call me Drew, so they started calling me Drew. Now here’s the thing, when we are living a lie, we have to constantly be on guard, and so at first I was pretty good and replied when people called my name, but in time I wasn’t able to keep it up and when people called out my name, I didn’t respond. Finally someone called me Andy and I responded and they all laughed, I was caught in my lie. Silly story I know, but living a lie will catch up to us in time. There is no peace as long as we are trying to hold up some false image of ourselves.
Living a lie is hard work and it doesn’t bring any real satisfaction or joy and while our heart is very good at deceiving us, deep down we know the lie that’s there and it unsettles us. We can ignore the lies and push them back into the dark corners of our heart, or we can acknowledge them and work to overcome them. If we are willing to be honest with God and ourselves, then with the light of God will come the love of God, which will bring grace and strength and healing. When James and John asked Jesus for positions of power, Jesus didn’t condemn them but he also didn’t allow them live in the darkness. Jesus shined the light of truth and love into the hearts and taught them that whoever wants to be first must be last, and whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant to all. Jesus loved them enough to help them be honest about their own hearts and see the need to change.
So we ask God to search our heart not so God will find something we think is hidden but so that God can reveal to us what it is that we are trying to hide. We ask God to search our heart because we know we are living a lie and caught up in a love of self that is destructive and needs to be changed. We ask God to search our heart because we know our heart needs to be changed in order to become the person we want to be and the person God wants us to be. We can ask God to change our heart and we can pray this dangerous prayer, but will we then take the time to look at what God finds and listen to what God shares?
In all of these prayers, the temptation will be for us to avoid the silence and solitude needed to confront in ourselves what God will point out. Many of David’s prayers came from times when David was alone, often running or hiding from his enemies, but that time away helped David deal with the reality of his heart and life. Jesus sought time alone to pray and it was during those times that Jesus searched his heart for what it was he really loved and asked for the clarity he needed to love and follow God’s will. It was during a time of prayer that Jesus heard God’s call to be a teacher and preacher and not just a healer and miracle worker. It was during a time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus asked God to search his heart and help him focus on and follow God’s will and desire for his life and not his own.
Silence and solitude are not part of our lives anymore. We take our phones with us and allow our silence to be interrupted by texts alerts, and phone calls, which means we are neither silent nor alone. It will be dangerous to create silence and solitude because when we give up our phones, we might find out just how addicted we are to them and to the idea that we are so important that we need to be connected to people at all times. It will be dangerous to spend time alone with God, but I invite you to create this time and space where you can be alone to pray.
Leave your phone behind and get away from people, maybe you will have to leave your house and sit in a park or even a parking lot, but find some time and space to be alone so you can listen to what God says when you pray this simple but dangerous prayer…
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Dangerous Prayers – Search My Heart
1. Memorize Psalm 139:23
Search me, O 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.
2. Find a place of silence and solitude where you can pray and then listen for God’s voice. Spend 15 minutes or longer in prayer. Write down what you hear God saying.
3. Jeremiah 17:9 says, the heart is deceitful above all things.
• In what ways has your heart deceived you about yourself?
• What lies have you believed that need to be addressed?
4. Identify the ways that you love yourself more than you love God and others.
• In what ways do you struggle with pride, anger and lust?
• How do you see these as areas of self-love that need to be overcome?