“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1 NIV)
Vulnerability is risky. Our trust can be betrayed. To counter this, we build walls. Physical walls supply a powerful mental image for the emotional walls we build to guard our hearts in relationships with others, and even from hopes and dreams with ourselves. All of we humans are flawed and let one another down.
The vulnerability required for trusting God can be hard to muster too. After all, perhaps we’ve experienced disappointment with God. That affects trust. More on that this week. For now, an exercise (I taught this in my church on Sunday).
I was first exposed to the Prayer of Examen in Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. Psalm 139:23-24 is the guiding text. In this prayer, we exercise trust in God by inviting him to search us. As Foster wisely points out, we dare not conduct this search ourselves, lest we either falsely excuse or overly blame ourselves. God is the only one able and trustworthy to perform this. Here’s how to do it. Take 10-15 minutes and practice it today.
1. Sit with palms up on your lap. Pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart” (Ps 139:23a). Breath slowly, welcoming God to the intimacy for which he created us in his image. After several slow breaths, proceed.
2. Pray: “Test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Ps 139:23b). Invite God to bring to mind your worries and anxieties. Remember the scripture, “cast your cares upon him” and do so. Name them one-by-one. Feel them stack up in your hands.
3. Pray: “See if there is any offensive way in me” (Ps 139:24a). Invite God to lead you in confession of sin. This is hard. Name what you already know you need to confess. Allow God to bring to mind things you may need to confess you weren’t aware of. Feel these stack up in your hands too.
4. Pray: “And lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:24b). Now turn over your hands so that your palms face downward. Feel your anxieties release into God’s hands. Feel your forgiven sins drop into his sea of mercy. This is not possible for us unless we can say, “The Lord is my shepherd.”