I’ve learned a lot from this book so far, as I usually do from John Piper. This excerpt here is the best part I’ve read so far. It touches on something I’ve experienced and I imagine you have too. He’s discussing the prayer of the psalmist in Psalm 119:36, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.”
Over the years in my pastoral ministry, many people have complained to me that they do not have motivation to read the Bible. They have a sense of duty that they should, but the desire is not there. It is remarkable how many of those people feel that the absence of the desire is the last nail in the coffin of joyful meditation on God’s word.
When I ask them to describe to me what they are doing about it, they look at me as if I had misunderstood the problem. What can you do about the absence of desire, they wonder. “It’s not a matter of doing. It’s a matter of feeling,” they protest. The problem with this response is that these folks have not just lost desire for God’s word, but they have lost sight of the sovereign power of God, who gives that desire. They are acting like practical atheists. They have adopted a kind of fatalism that ignores the way the psalmist prays.
Evidently, the psalmist too felt this terrible tendency to drift away from the word of God. Evidently, he too knew the cooling of desire and the tendency of his heart to incline more to other things — especially money. Otherwise why would he have cried out, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.“? He is pleading with God to give him desire for the word. He knows that ultimately God is sovereign over the desires of the heart. So he calls on God to cause what he cannot make happen on his own. This is the answer to fatalism. This is the answer to acting like an atheist — as if there were no God who rules the heart, and can restore what we have lost. (p.255)
A little further on, Piper speaks about how to go about this:
Don’t wait until you have lost the desire before you start praying for this desire. If the desire is present, give thanks and ask him to preserve it and intensify it. If you sense that it is cooling, plead that he would kindle it. And if it is gone, and you do not feel any desire to pray, do what you can. Repent. Tell him you are sorry that your desire for his word is dead. Tell him just how you feel. He knows already. And ask him — this is possible without hypocrisy because of the “imperishable seed” (1 Pet. 1:23) that remains in his children — ask him to give you the desire that right now you can barely even muster the will to ask for. He is merciful. (p.256)
By the way, you can download this book for free right here.