OK, so an effort of full disclosure, that post title might have been SLIGHTLY misleading…BUT…I still think it’s close enough to the heart of what I have to share with you today that I can “scrape by”.
Let me explain…
I’ve mentioned before how influential John Piper and the Desiring God ministry has been for me as God continues to transform my life to His likeness. After reading the Piper classic, Desiring God, I came away with many things I’d like to implement, change and different ways of looking at the truth of the bible. But shortly thereafter my kids got me one of the best gifts ever…his follow up book entitled When I Don’t Desire God. From that book came one really practical suggestion that I still put into practice today. It is a method of coming to the Word and communicating with Jesus every morning.
Simply put, I sometimes (more often than not) find when I come to the word of God, my heart, mind, spirit and soul are not aligned and positioned properly to concentrate, listen and receive what God may have for me. In years past I would start my daily reading and prayer with a quick prayer for God to bless the time and impart His truth and wisdom to me and then just start reading. I was lucky to get through the 10-15 second prayer without my mind wandering. Let alone for it not to wander while I was reading and praying afterward.
Anyway, very soon I will be posting a method of reading scripture that has totally revolutionized my prayer life and daily time with God, but in the mean time, this is an awesome, quick and practical tip from the book When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper. I hope you find it to be as powerful in your time with God as I have!
Isaiah 66:2 — But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
So if you’re having trouble finding God, humble yourself before reading God’s Word and He’s likely to find you! I.O.U.S is one prayer that helps us to humble ourselves before reading God’s Word. You might consider printing it out and sticking it in your Bible.
Very practically what this means for the fight for joy is that every day we must not just go to the Word, but pray over the Word—indeed before we even get to the Word, lest he fail to come. I close this chapter with the way this works in my own experience.
Almost every day I pray early in the morning that God would give me desires for him and his Word, because the desires I ought to have are absent or weak. In fact, I follow the acronym myself that I have given to many people to help them fight for joy. The acronym is I O U S. It is very limited and focused. It’s not all we should pray for. But this book (and most of my life) is about the fight for joy. And that is what I O U S focuses on. Here’s the way I pray over the Word in my fight for joy.
I—(Incline!) The first thing my soul needs is an inclination toward God and his Word. Without that, nothing else will happen of any value in my life. I must want to know God and read his Word and draw near to him. Where does that “want to” come from? It comes from God. So Psalm 119:36 teaches us to pray, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Very simply we ask God to take our hearts, which are more inclined to breakfast and the newspaper, and change that inclination. We are asking that God create desires that are not there.
O—(Open!) Next I need to have the eyes of my heart opened so that when my inclination leads me to the Word, I see what is really there, and not just my own ideas. Who opens the eyes of the heart? God does. So Psalm 119:18 teaches us to pray, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” So many times we read the Bible and see nothing wonderful. Its reading does not produce joy. So what can we do? We can cry to God: “Open the eyes of my heart, O Lord, to see what it says about you as wonderful.”
U—(Unite!) Then I am concerned that my heart is badly fragmented. Parts of it are inclined, and parts of it are not. Parts see wonder, and parts say, “That’s not so wonderful.” What I long for is a united heart where all the parts say a joyful Yes! to what God reveals in his Word. Where does that wholeness and unity come from? It comes from God. So Psalm 86:11 teaches us to pray, “Unite my heart to fear your name.” Don’t stumble over the word fear when you thought we were seeking joy. The fear of the Lord is a joyful experience when you renounce all sin. A thunderstorm can be a trembling joy when you know you can’t be destroyed by lightning. “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to . . . the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name” (Neh. 1:11). “His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:3). Therefore pray that God would unite your heart to joyfully fear the Lord.
S—(Satisfy!) What I really want from all this engagement with the Word of God and the work of his Spirit in answer to my prayers is for my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world. Where does that satisfaction come from? It comes from God. So The Focus of Prayer in the Fight for Joy < 151 Psalm 90:14 teaches us to pray, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
I O U S ADMITS GOD IS OUR ONLY HOPE FOR JOY
This acronym has served me well for years. This is frontline warfare for me.