Piper: the IOU’S of praying for endurance (from the Psalms)

We have a number of issues when it comes to us praying: the desire to pray, the content of what to pray, and the discipline to do so being among them.

Desire is the chief issue because it’s so closely associated to what or who sits ruling our hearts. Content can however also be a cause of stumbling: What can or should I pray? We might have grown weary of praying the same “Dear God please help so and so with such and such…” Although I’m certain those prayers are heard by a gracious and loving Father, we may have the desire to be praying through a bit more of His Scripture, asking for specifics that God has brought to our attention through His Word –such as prayers for the endurance of ourselves and others. So content wise, what can you and I pray?

In the context of praying for endurance John Piper says this:

The psalmists prayed in the same way. They pleaded that God would overcome their failing wills: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gains!” (Psalm 119:36). In other words, the Psalmist saw that he was “prone to wander” away from endurance and faithfulness, and pleaded with God to intervene and change his will when he started to love money more than truth. Similarly he prayed that God would open his eyes to see the compelling beauty of what was there in the Word (psalm 119:18), and that God would unite his heart from all divided allegiances (Psalm 86:11), and that God would satisfy him with divine love, and so wean him off the world (Psalm 90:14). Without this kind of divine help nobody will endure to the end in love to Christ. That’s why the apostle Paul prays this way for his people: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). If we’re going to endure in faith and obedience, God must “direct our hearts” to Christ.

The footnote in this section says:

“Notice that the four italicized words (“Incline,” “open,” “unite,” satisfy”) from these four texts (Psalm 119:36; 119:18; 86:11; 90:14) form an acronym: “IOU’S.” I use this regularly as a reminder of how to pray for my own soul and for others.”


The exact acronym only works if you use the ESV – doh! It you’re using something else, say the NIV 1984 or the Holman then “Incline” becomes “Turn” (TOU’S doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), “unite” can become “undivided” (though you lose the verb). It doesn’t really matter though – I still think it’s a lovely acronym or set of Scriptures to use in prayer for ourselves and for others, specifically related to endurance to the end. The point, obviously though, is to pray! (On this, if I haven’t recommended it before, check out PrayerMate – it could help with the discipline side of things).

If we prayed these Scriptures regularly for ourselves and for others, I’d be surprised if we didn’t actually find our own desires changing and being shaped by the content of these Psalms as we’re pointed to what is of true value, what to seek and yearn for. I’ve certainly found them to be sobering in a re-evaluation of what to set my own eyes and hearts on. I pray they will be the same for you if you pray them.


Here are the four verses from the ESV, NIV 84 and Holman respectively:

Incline – Psalm 119:36

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gains” – ESV

“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain” – NIV 84

“Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to material gain.” – Holman


Open – Psalm 119:18

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” – ESV

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” – NIV 84

Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wonderful things from Your instruction.” – Holman


Unite – Psalm 86:11

“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” – ESV)

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” – NIV 84

“Teach me Your way, Yahweh, and I will live by Your truth. Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.” – Holman


Satisfy – Psalm 90:14

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” – ESV

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” – NIV 84)

Satisfy us in the morning with Your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.” – Holman


The book by the way is, “The Roots of Endurance: Invincible perseverance in the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce” (quotes from page 24). It was wonderful for my own soul, and probably would be for yours too. A PDF copy for free can be found here at the Desiring God website.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s