Lent is coming. Ash Wednesday is less than two weeks away. Here is an exercise in discernment and confession that you might want to use as part of your Lenten discipline. It is a self-examination using the Ten Commandments. Done thoroughly in a spirit of contemplation and openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, it will take an hour or so.
Have a journal and pen nearby to capture what is revealed to you and then begin with a brief prayer, asking God to reveal your sins. Sit quietly and try to listen. If he does not reveal anything to you immediately, begin working through the Ten Commandments. Read each commandment with an openness before the Lord, considering the reflection questions below.
You shall have no other gods before me.
What do I place above God? What commands more attention, loyalty, or effort?
Am I divided in my heart and mind?
Do I have faith and hope in anything else?
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
What do I ascribe worth to? Would it grieve me if I lost it?
Read and consider Luke 14:25-33.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Am I able to control my tongue?
Do I ever regret what I say (or write)?
Read and consider James 1:26
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Do I trust God to provide for me?
Do I set aside time for worship and prayer?
Do I drive others harder than I should?
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
Do I speak ill of my parents?
Do I seek to serve my parents?
You shall not murder.
Read and consider Matthew 5:21-26
Do I wish ill toward anyone?
You shall not commit adultery.
Read and consider Matthew 5:27-30
Do I entertain inappropriate sexual thoughts?
Do I entertain fantasies?
You shall not steal.
Do I withhold what is due to others?
Do I take what is not mine?
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Do I entertain or spread gossip?
Do I seek only to build others up through my speech?
Am I truthful?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
Are there things I want that I do not have?
Am I jealous toward what others possess?
Once you’ve worked your way through all ten, ask God to forgive you for your sins. It may be helpful to share your list with a trusted priest or friend. Pray that God would show you what steps you can take to repent of your sins, both by making amends where you have impacted others and by adjusting your behavior.
Finally, thank God for his forgiveness and pray for strength to withstand temptation.