Many Christians are stunted in their spiritual growth because they don’t understand or express their deep emotions and desires. As pastors, ministry leaders, caregivers, or parents we may get so busy or so focused on other people that we become disconnected from our own emotions and needs.

But being self-aware is crucial to our abilities to connect with God and other people. So in Psalm 139:23 David prays, ”Search me, O God, and know my heart…” He goes on to ask God to help him with uncovering his anxiety and sin, which are the two main obstacles to experiencing the love and power of God.

David inspires us to open our hearts to God by trusting that God is present and he cares. He also guides us in emotionally vulnerable prayer, modeling for us how to talk to God about our real feelings and needs. Psalm 139 is a great gift to help us to connect with our God of compassion with realness — if we go beyond reading it and pray it! We need to slow down and look to the Holy Spirit to help us pray.

This experience of praying Psalm 139 is designed to help us open our inner self to God’s grace. It leads us through slow meditations and deep prayers on the key verses in the psalm in a progression of deepening heart prayer. These are the kinds of experiences that we use in our Soul Shepherding groups and retreats, as well as in spiritual direction and psychotherapy.

Psalm 139 Reflections (For Prayer and Journaling)

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me… You are familiar with all my ways… You hem me in — behind and before…” (vv. 1-6)

  • How do you feel when you consider that God knows everything about you? Consider that you are in God’s presence right now…

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?… For darkness is as light to you.” (vv. 7-12)

  • In what ways do you tend to hide emotions, needs, or sin? Busyness? Helping others? Intellectualizing? Eating? Another compulsive behavior? Entertainment? Talk to God about your ways of hiding emotionally…

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made… How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!… [Thank you that] I am [always] with you.” (vv. 13-18)

  • What are some of the wonderful ways that God has made you? Is it precious to you that God has loving thoughts for you and is always with you?  Give thanks and praise to God for how he has made you and how he cares for you…

“If only you would slay the wicked, O God!… [Should] I not hate those who hate you, O Lord[?]…” (vv. 19-22)

  • Do you admit to and pray about negative feelings? Are you angry toward someone who has mistreated you? Release to God your frustrations…

“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.” (vv. 23-24)

  • What is something you’re anxious about? How have you offended someone? (Anxiety is not a sin, but it may lead to sin.) Offer your confession to God and ask him to lead you in his way of life…

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