There are two common ways that people prepare for Confession in Lent. They make a list of sins they want to put behind them. Or they review past entries in their prayer journals to identify personal struggles.
But no matter how self-aware we become, we are not our own final judges—God is. Fortunately, he’s a “judge” who knows us intimately and loves us tenderly. According to Psalm 139, God formed our inmost being. He is aware of our virtuous inclinations along with every temptation that ripples through us. Since God is familiar with all our ways, he is the perfect guide to accompany us as we examine our consciences.
This year, try to have an open conversation with the Lord. Be open to God’s guidance about areas he wants to change or restore. Your time with him can be comfortable but honest, like working out a problem with a friend over a hot drink. With the psalmist, invite the Lord to examine you and show you a new way:
Probe me, God, know my heart;
try me, know my thoughts.
See if there is a wicked path in me;
lead me along an ancient path. (Psalm 139:23-24)
There is a pathway to goodness, and it starts with repentance. Only you and God know the areas of your life most in need of his healing touch. The list doesn’t have to be long; repentance in one area can cause a chain reaction in others. Resolving your pride, for example, might put an end to jealous tendencies.
Whatever your examination brings up, know that God’s response to you is mercy. You are precious to him—he knit you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). So sit quietly with him, and ask him to show you yourself. When an area of sin comes to mind, know that God is guiding you back to him.
Listed here are some areas you may want to examine during your time with the Lord.
Keeping the Sabbath, honoring God in speech, praying regularly.
Lord, how can I get to know you more deeply?
Do I love you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength?
Is there a prayer, devotion, Sacrament, or virtue that you want me to pursue?
Parents, children, spouse, co-workers, friends, strangers, married, single, religious.
Holy Spirit, what relationships need reconciliation, healing, and gentle love from me?
Is there anyone I can encourage or reach out to in a spirit of generosity?
How can I draw closer to the people I am distant from?
Finances, property, assigned duties, the earth, people under your care, tithing.
Father, what are your priorities? Who is on your heart?
How can I conduct my affairs with your heart of mercy?
Is there an area of stewardship that you want me to reexamine?
Lying, cheating, coveting, lust, adultery.
God, how can I purify my thoughts and intentions?
What is the truth you want me to understand?
How can I stay accountable in these matters of the heart?
Family, the elderly, the poor, the sick, neighbors, ministries, work, recreation.
Jesus, am I spending my time well?
Have I made any activity or person an idol by accident?
Is there a person, a group of people or a work that you want me to serve?