This is one of the few prayers in the psalms that we hesitate to echo:
Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind.
It is a bold prayer, for David asks God to examine him. He wants God to see how righteous he has been, for he is confident that he has walked in the LORD's ways.
By saying that he is all right, is David all wrong? Would we dare to do this, and ask God to test our heart and mind?
As always, it is crucial to consider the reason for David’s prayer. He was facing an unfair attack from his enemies, perhaps during Saul’s persecution or during Absalom’s rebellion. He was being oppressed without just cause, and he knew that he could rest himself solely in the LORD’s judgment and favour: “LORD, you know how I have lived,” he says. “God, you have seen that I’ve tried to be faithful, and how I have walked in integrity.”
So David prays in verse 2, “Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.” It’s an image from metal-working, where gold and silver are tried in intense heat in order to burn away impurities, and to strengthen the metals once they cool.
In this time of intense trial David wants the LORD to test his heart and life: Has David still gone up to the LORD’s house for worship? Has he kept trusting in God? Has David shown himself to be faithful?
In these things David is sure that he will pass the test. What about us?
Leading up to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Spirit calls us to examine ourselves: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (1 Cor 11:28). Self-examination is vital, but we must do it in the knowledge that God examines us too. For we can be wrong about ourselves.
We can be far too positive about ourselves - overlooking or minimizing our hidden sins - and thinking that we are doing just fine.
We can also be too negative about ourselves - not seeing how God is changing and growing us - and concluding that we’re not good for anything.
So like David, we need God to prove and test us, for God knows us truly. The LORD knows those who are his own, because he sees our faith, however small and struggling it is.
Now, we could examine ourselves every day and conclude every time that we don’t measure up. And it is true, because only in Christ does God accept us. But like David, we can also seek the evidence that we are God’s possession.
Look in your heart for true sorrow over sin.
Look for a sure confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Look for an earnest desire to serve the LORD.
May God examine us today, and see that we are united to Jesus his Son by a true and living faith.