The Prayer of Self-Examen

November 30, 2015 — Leave A Comment

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Search me, 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.
~ Psalm 139:23-24

(This is part 5 of a series on essential prayers for faith leaders. You can find part 1 here.)

In my experience, the number one problem faith leaders struggle with as leaders isn’t lack of money or resources. It isn’t lack of good people to serve on the team. It isn’t resistance from outside forces or relational strife within the ranks. It isn’t a lack of good strategy, or a shortage of people with the skills to carry it out. All of these are important. All can be greatly helped by working with a leadership coach. But none of them is the root problem.

I believe the root problem all faith leaders struggle with is this: Lack of self awareness.

It’s the thing the leader doesn’t realize he’s doing that gets in his way. It’s the unintended impact she’s having on her team that undermines her effectiveness. It’s the blind spot in his personal development that eventually sabotages all the good he’s working to achieve.

This is only one of the reasons why the Prayer of Self-Examen is so important. But it’s a really good one.

The Prayer of Self-Examen can take many forms, but at its essence, I would say it is this:

The Prayer of Self-Examen is the regular practice of honest self-evaluation in the presence of God for the purpose of becoming whole.

I recommend this prayer be practiced at least daily. I prefer to do it in the mornings, when I can look with fresh eyes on how I lived the day before. But it can be powerful to practice it twice a day (morning and evening), or even three times (morning, midday, and night) as a means of increasing your awareness of the state of your heart and the impact of your actions throughout the day.

I use the simple acronym FAB to guide the prayer. Once you practice it a bit, you’ll find you can do it effectively in as little as 5 minutes:

F ~ Feelings: What feelings have been most dominant in me over the past day (or past few hours)? What is fueling them? How have I honored or dishonored God or others because of my emotions? What do I need to do to bring my feelings under the authority of God in my life? How will I honor God with my feelings today?

A ~ Actions: Which of my actions over the past day (or past few hours) have honored God? Which have dishonored him? How has my recent behavior blessed or injured the people around me? Is there anything I need to make right with God or the people in my life? How will I honor God through my actions today?

B ~ Beliefs: What beliefs have been running my thoughts and choices over the past day (or past few hours)? How are these beliefs aligned or in conflict with what God says is true about me, my life, or my circumstances? Where do I need to repent for believing something that isn’t true? What will I choose to believe today?

Of course, the Prayer of Self-Examen by itself is not enough. In addition to the prayer, I believe every leader needs the regular feedback of trusted friends who will provide an honest mirror for you to see your blind spots or the unintended impact your attitudes or behaviors may be having on your leadership effectiveness.

What do you think of the Prayer of Self-Examen? How have you adapted this prayer (or one like it) for use in your own life and leadership?

Michael Warden

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