ODJ: Towards or Away

April 6, 2018 

READ: Psalm 139:1-24 

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life (vv.23-24).

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) and John Wesley (1703–1791) lived more than a century apart and in very different contexts. But both created a means of self-examination to aid in their spiritual transformation. Ignatius recommended that those in the religious order he formed pray an “examen” prayer twice a day to open themselves to the Holy Spirit and to discern the movements of their soul either towards or away from God. John Wesley, similarly, formed a series of twenty-two questions that he and his small group in Oxford asked themselves each night, including, “Did the Bible live in me today? Am I enjoying prayer?” Both men longed to be changed and moulded by the Spirit to be more like Jesus.

Prayerful self-examination is rooted in the Bible. In Psalm 139, for example, King David reflects on how the Lord examines his heart and knows him inside and out (v.1). He phrases this same thought in several different ways (vv.2-5), as if to get the truth of God’s intimate relationship with him rooted deeply not only in his mind but in his heart. It’s like he’s turning a diamond over in his palm, examining its many facets with wonder and thanksgiving.

Reflecting on this truth leads David to want to know himself better to draw closer to God. David examined his motives and behaviour, asking God to guide him and help him see what he might be missing—such as hidden sins or things he’d buried—“anything” that might offend God (v.24). Like Ignatius and Wesley, he chose to trust God to guide him “along the path of everlasting life” (v.24).

Let’s pause and seek the Spirit’s guidance as we consider prayerfully how we might draw closer to our God throughout the day.

—Amy Boucher Pye

365-day plan: 2 Samuel 12:1-25

Read 2 Cor. 13:5-6 to see how Paul directed the church at Corinth to examine themselves before God. 
Do you see any potential dangers in a practice of self-examination? If so, how could you guard against them? How can the Holy Spirit keep us from becoming too self-focused?