Series 36


by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Psalm 139: 23-24

Have you ever prayed the prayer which forms the theme of this study – “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”? Notice four things about David’s prayer:-

  1. (1) He addresses God. God is the only one who really knows our hearts (Psalm 139:1-4). No psychiatrist knows our hearts or our minds, but the Lord Himself is the searcher of hearts and knows us intimately and accurately.
  2. (2) He asks God to search him through and through. He prays for searching of his heart, his thoughts and for such an intimate inspection that if there is any “offensive way” this will be revealed. The word ‘search’ means to ‘ransack’; it reminds us of a policeman with a search warrant, the searching look of a loved one, or of the searchlight which penetrates the darkness and reveals the enemy. David prays that God will ransack him and search him to see if there is any hidden sin, anything that grieves Him.
  3. (3) He shows courage, sincerity and humility. No-one can pray this prayer lightly, insincerely or with a proud heart. It would be mockery to do so.
  4. (4) He prays as one who is hungry for God and who wants to go on with God. This prayer reminds us of Matthew 5:6. Do you desire to go on with the Lord? Are you hungry for His best?


1. Why we should pray this prayer

There is one answer: because our hearts and lives quickly get cluttered up with dirt, dust and rubbish. It is so easy for us to let wrong things in and to harbour them. Look up Nehemiah 4:10 and Lamentations 3:40. How easy it is for us to become slack and careless and spiritually insensitive! How easy it is to become guilty of wrong attitudes towards others, to become prayerless, to become careless about the desperate need of men and women around us who are without God and without hope for this life and for the life to come (Ephesians 2:12)! How easy it is to become formal in our worship (Matthew 15:8); to become lukewarm in our love for the Lord Jesus (Revelation 3:15-16). These are the reasons why we should pray David’s prayer, that God will reveal to us our sin and our failure and that He will be unsparing and faithful in doing so.


2. When we should pray this prayer

  1. (1) When we come to the Lord’s Table. Turn to 1 Corinthians 11:28.
  2. (2) When we are experiencing prosperity. Why? Because at such a time we are likely to become spiritually slack – read Psalm 62:10 and Psalm 119:67.
  3. (3) When we are experiencing adversity. Why? Because it could be the Lord’s loving chastening in order to bring us back into the line of His will – look up Hebrews 12:6-11.
  4. (4) When our service seems fruitless and barren. The Lord’s will is that we should bring forth fruit – look up John 15:16.
  5. (5) When revival is needed in the Church. Read the whole of Psalm 85.
  6. (6) When our prayers do not seem to gain the ear of God. Often we pray and our prayers do not seem to be answered – read Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2.
  7. (7) When we find ourselves getting critical and careless and when we are very conscious that all is not well with our Christian life.


3. How we should pray this prayer

  1. (1) We should pray it in relation to ourselves. Notice how personal David’s prayer was – “Search me…” Look up 2 Samuel 12:7 and Matthew 26:21-22, and then compare Matthew 7:3.
  2. (2) We should pray this prayer in private and in the light of God’s Word. This is serious business and it is important to get alone with the Lord and with the open Bible. Then such a prayer will glorify God and bring blessings to us.
  3. (3) We should pray this prayer with determination. It will show itself in three ways:
    • First, we shall admit what God reveals. If we are sincere we will immediately recognise anything He reveals in our lives which is grieving to Him.
    • Second, we shall confess and renounce what God reveals. If He shows us that we have a critical spirit, that we have been slandering some other Christian, or that we have taken something that does not belong to us, we shall be willing at once to confess the thing that is wrong and to renounce it and to rejoice in the truth of 1 John 1:9!
    • Third, we shall make restitution where this is required. If we have slandered someone we shall apologise to them; if our careless speaking has misrepresented them before others, we shall confess this; if we have taken something that does not belong to us we shall restore the stolen thing.

Notice how the prayer concludes – “Lead me in the way everlasting.” This is the way of peace, joy, power and usefulness. Will you pray this prayer, not only now but frequently?