1. Read Psalm 139:23-24
I prayed this prayer when my family and marriage were in danger of falling apart. I asked God what He saw in me that needed to change, and believe it or not, He pointed out just a few things I needed to ask forgiveness for, and a few bad relational habits I needed to get rid of.
This has to be a prayer that David wrote at a time in his life when he wanted God’s help. The prayer is this: “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.” Whoa. That’s serious stuff. David is asking to see the results of his heart scan, done by the Almighty.
Think about how much courage it takes to really pray this prayer, believing that God will point out anything in you that offends Him. So, here’s that caution flag: if you take this prayer on halfheartedly, or if you expect everyone else to change to make things better for you, you will not only be disappointed, but you will be very uncomfortable, because God will do His part! He will bring to your attention those things that He would like to remove from you. God might use a number of ways to get your attention, but if you pray this prayer earnestly, You will hear from God.
2. Keep an “Offenses Journal.”
Go pick up a composition notebook for a couple of dollars, and title it, “My Offense Journal.” I wrote the prayer from Psalm 139 on the top of the first page and then prayed it. Almost immediately God started bringing memories to the front of my mind. You may find that you have to do what I did – I wrote the instances on an index card as they came to me, because God gave me a huge handful right out of the gate.
3. Make daily entries that acknowledge and confess the specific problem and ask for God’s help with it.
Select one of the offenses and begin to write in your journal as if you were talking to God about it. First of all you’ll need to “own” it. The reason you prayed the prayer was to make your life better, right? Confess it and own it, right there in your journal. At that point, ask God to begin to take away the pain and sorrow you may be feeling, and ask His forgiveness for this offense. Finish your journal entry by reaffirming how much you know that God loves you, and thank Him for His help in showing you this area you want to change.
4. Ask God for courage to do something about what you’ve learned.
Perhaps the most important step is to take action. It might be to tell a good friend you realize you have this bad habit, and you want to break out of it to make your life better. Ask him or her to point out whenever they “catch” you in the bad habit. One thing I needed to change was my defensiveness when I received a critique. I realized this was a time when my pride got in the way. It wasn’t easy to change in those instances when we’re being criticized harshly, but I got lots better at dealing with criticism that was given in less hostile instances. Perhaps after writing an entry, you will feel a tugging in your spirit to contact a certain person to ask their forgiveness for a hard heart toward them, or for not handling a past situation wisely. They may have already let it go, but the process of bringing it to their attention with a humble heart will bring healing to the both of you.
5. Focus on the positive results.
Use your Offenses Journal as often as you feel the need. Don’t use it to beat yourself up about your brokenness – we all have flaws and none of us will be made perfect on this side of eternity. The Bible is filled with “heroes” in our eyes, but they were flawed individuals just like us. For instance, David who wrote this prayer in the Bible was a king and a warrior for God, and was also an adulterer, murderer, and liar. Use this prayer to change your life for the better. Rest in God’s promise to love us, no matter what. I love Psalm 103:10-12, “He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
I promise you that this prayer will lead to a much lighter load to carry, and will translate into a more peaceful spirit to move you forward in your relationship with God.