Book Review: Teach Us to Want

Many, like me, imagine desire and faith in a boxing ring, facing off like opponents.

Jen Pollock Michel makes that statement in the first chapter of her book, Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition & the Life of Faith. This engrossing and challenging book is a theology of desire explored through the words of the Lord’s Prayer.

I, too, have seen desire and faith as opponents: my old self wanting my desires to win and my new self rooting for faith. I have often complained that I have a dysfunctional “wanter.” After all, my health would be so much better if I wanted to do push-ups and eat salad instead of craving couch time and Mint Moose Tracks ice cream. My spiritual life would be easier if I only desired what God desired. In fact, maybe life would be better if I simply didn’t have any desires.

But Michel makes the case that desires are a natural part of us. Without desire we don’t have the fuel to move ahead in life. Our unique desires are part of who we are. Yes, our “wanters” can be corrupted, and so we must be careful to guard our hearts, but desire can be what draws us closer to God.

Reading Teach Us to Want helped me learn a lot of desire:

  • Desire pulls us to our heavenly Father as we pray for what we need.
  • Examining our desires can lead to self-discovery and transformation.
  • Unmet desire is a training program for learning to trust a gracious God.
  • We want too much and we want too little.
  • It is not self-effort that recalibrates our wanters. Only God’s grace can turn our heart’s desires toward His kingdom.

Desire has been a topic I have long struggled with. Teach Us to Want untangled a lot of my thoughts on the subject. In fact, now that I have finished reading it, I plan to read it again. It is a meaty book, filled with honest transparency and personal stories.

I think this quote from the last chapter sums up Teach Us to Want:

There is a biblical case for wanting and wanting well…Although easily corrupted, desire is good, right and necessary. It is a force of movement in our lives, a means of transportation. It can be the very thing that motivates us to change and that carries us to God…Growing into maturity doesn’t mean abandoning our desires, but growing in our discernment of them.

Check out Teach Us to Want on Amazon.

Jen Pollock Michel is a writer, speaker, and mother of five. She is a regular contributor for Christianity Today’s her.meneutics and also writes for Today in the Word, a monthly devotional published by The Moody Bible Institute.  Jen earned her B.A. in French from Wheaton College and her M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her family and blogs at You can follow Jen on Twitter @jenpmichel.

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