We are naturally selfish, deceitful, foolish, and sinful.
My heart is selfish and prone to want things for myself and not for God.
My heart is deceitful and by default darkened to the wondrous realities of God.
My soul is foolish and divided to fear people and things rather than God.
My soul is sinful and satisfied in people and things other than God.
So I need to pray. The Psalmists often provides a helpful model for prayer. Using the Psalms, pastor and author John Piper has shared an acronym for prayer in times when his heart is cold toward God: I.O.U.S. (Incline, Open, Unite, Satisfy). I’ve found these prayers from the Psalms helpful for me when I don’t desire God, and I hope they are helpful for you!
The Psalmist prays that God would incline, open, unite, and satisfy…
Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain. (Psalm 119:36)
Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)
Unite my heart to fear you name. (Psalm 86:11)
Satisfy me in the morning with you steadfast love. (Psalm 90:14)
I’d encourage you to try praying these anytime, even right now!
1. Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain.
- Our hearts are naturally inclined toward selfish gain, and so we need the Spirit of God to incline them toward the Word of God.
2. Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
- We need the Spirit of God to use the Word of God to reveal to us the Son of God as He really is.
3. Unite my heart to fear you name. (Psalm 86:11)
- We need our divided hearts to be united by the Spirit of God to stand in awe before the reality of God. You can read more on the Fear of the Lord here.
4. Satisfy me in the morning with you steadfast love. (Psalm 90:14)
- We need the Spirit of God to satisfy us with the steadfast love of Christ.
See how John Piper explains it in his book, “When I Don’t Desire God”:
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 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.”
You can read the whole book here.
My soul can easily shrivel up and tend not to want its capacities for joy expanded for God.
We are in need of the Spirit of God to do the supernatural work of inclining, opening, uniting, and satisfying us with God himself. Because of our sinful unfaithfulness to a good God, we deserve hell. But praise the Lord that God the Son came in human flesh and, unlike any of us, lived an entire life of perfect love to His Father in heaven. Jesus Christ obeyed God even to the point of dying on the cross for the sins of all who would would just repent and trust in Him.
Praise God that He is pleased to answer our prayers now to incline, open, unite, and satisfy for our everlasting good and for the glory of His only Son, Jesus Christ. May the unchanging love of Christ be our deepest longing in this and every season.