Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, By Jen Pollock Michel
Teach Us to Want
  • Length: 221 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Number of Studies: 5
  • Published: June 04, 2014
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4312
  • ISBN: 9780830843121

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Logos Bookstores' Best Book in Spirituality/Devotional

Christianity Today Book of the Year

Honorable Mention, Best Book of the Year from Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Bookstore

As Christians, we're squeamish about desire. Isn't wanting sinful and selfish? Aren't we supposed to find and follow God's will rather than insisting upon our own?

The story of each person is a story of want—desires unmet, hopes dashed, passions pursued and ambitions fulfilled. Our wants cannot be ignored. But when desire is informed by Scripture and re-formed by our spiritual practices, it can root us more deeply in the fundamental belief that God is good and generous and can invite us into active kingdom participation.

Jen Pollock Michel guides us on a journey of understanding who we are when we want, and reintroduces us to a God who gives us the desires of our hearts. That same good God calls us into a new reality in which we seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and we discover our disordered desires burned away while our truest longings are happily fulfilled and purified. The disciples asked Jesus to "Teach us to pray." This book asks, "Teach us to want."

"Seriously, one of the most beautiful nonfiction books I have ever read."

Bethany Jenkins, founder, The Park Forum

"Jen Pollock Michel's Teach Us to Want is a beautiful spiritual memoir that weaves the author's story with passages from Scripture that address—and even gracefully redress—her restless fears and questions. Intelligent, honest and inspiring, the book invites readers to understand their own stories of loss and "loving wrongly" in the light of that which is truly the antidote to our fears and dissatisfaction, the good news."

Jennifer Grant, author of Love You More, MOMumental, Wholehearted Living and Disquiet Time

"'Lead me not into ambition,' I have prayed, sideways, with the weight of ambition on my shoulders. Who has not wrestled with the tensions between what we desire and what (we think) God desires? Michel has brilliantly lit a way through our own dark, tangled brambles. I've been waiting for this book for a long time."

Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

"Michel artfully weaves together Scripture and story to point us straight to the truth of God's love, grace and provision. This is not a Christian guide to success or a biblical condemnation of desire. This is a book that rightly resets our human desires into the context of God's good news."

Kathy Khang, coauthor of More Than Serving Tea

"As women, we often feel the urge to hide our longings, especially in the church. Through her own story of fear, loss and God's goodness, Jen stirs us to recover and reshape these desires in light of the kingdom of God."

Rebekah Lyons, author of Freefall to Fly

"Jen Pollock Michel fuses three things that make her book essential reading: deep insight, raw honesty and radiant prose. She's a terrific writer, an agile thinker and—if that were not enough—a fearless witness to her own heart's darkness and light. By inviting me deeply into the mess and beauty of her own story, she has given me courage to step into the mess and beauty of my own—and, with her, to meet afresh the One who awakens, names, purifies and meets all the desires of my heart."

Mark Buchanan, author of Your Church Is Too Safe

"Most of us have wanted something at some point in life. Some of us live with a deep void in our souls that never seems to be filled. How do we live with such desires? How do we respond to the emotions brought on by longing and wanting? With raw honesty and a scriptural foundation, Michel shows that our desires have a place in the journey of faith."

Courtney Reissig, Christianity Today's 2015 Book Awards (Book of the Year), January/February 2015

"In Teach Us to Want, Toronto-based writer Jen Pollock Michel challenges conventional Christian notions about heeding desire. She helps us understand that what we want isn't our enemy, but can be one of God's most powerful tools for shaping and directing us. We might easily think of desire as all bad, but Michel argues that desire, rightly understood, should be followed."

Laura Turner, Christianity Today, July/August 2014

"'Desire is primal: to be human is to want,' writes Jen Pollock Michel in the opening chapter of her praiseworthy new book Teach Us to Want. Certainly this is not new information, but in this compelling book that masterfully interweaves juicy personal narrative, scholarly research, and solid biblical exegesis, Michel builds a case for the importance of examining desire's many facets: 'Desire is the powerful subtext of our lives. It determines decisions. This is why we need to pay attention to it.' "With grace and humor, she bravely bares her own stories of struggle with wanting and loss, hope and doubt. Her vulnerability elicits the reader's trust. Here is a worthy and compassionate guide to join on this important journey; Michel helps us distinguish between What do I want? and What does God want for me? "Using the Lord's Prayer as a rubric to frame our naked wanting, the reader is invited to consider Jesus' language of prayer as a way of realigning our hearts with God's purposes and priorities. These 'are words we pray, not always because we believe them but because we want to believe them.' Our desires, though warped by our sin, have been placed in us by God, and it is his desire to recalibrate our hearts for the glory of his kingdom. Though it would be easy to float off in many divergent theoretical theological directions, the book stays grounded through relatable stories and practical application. . . . "This is the kind of book you set down not because it has lost your interest, but because you need time to soak in its profound intricacy."

Aleah Marsden, Books Culture, August 2014

"In her debut book, Jen Pollock Michel offers a meditation on what it means to walk the line between dismissing our desires as evil and abandoning ourselves to them. The book's mix of narrative and biblical reflection nudges us into deeper contemplation of our desires, God and the ends toward which our desires are driving us."

Relevant Magazine, September-October 2014

"Jen Pollock Michel's latest book, Teach Us to Want, reflects on the Lord's Prayer as a way of knowing our desires. . . . This title guides women in understanding that when their desire is informed by Scripture and reformed by spiritual practices, it can invite them into active kingdom participation."

CBA Retailers + Resources, August 2014

"This is an important and enjoyable work. In the end, Michel shows that desires are a divine gift—corrupted by sin, to be sure, but to be embraced as we seek their transformation by grace. Especially for those who consider happiness and holiness at odds, Michel wants to prove they have been friends all along. This is a book for anyone looking for an enjoyable and insightful read on a nuanced perspective of our desires and longings."

Drew Hunter, Themelios, April 2016

"Probably the best praise for a book is the difference it makes in your own life. Michel makes a case for praying honestly: not self-editing as we go because we know perfectly well that many of our prayers are illegitimate, but just letting it come out because it behooves us to know what's in our own hearts. So I tried it and was surprised at some of what surfaced. God had never been fooled by my careful petitions, but I had been. I will try it again, and often. We don't always get what we want. And we don't always want what we get. Michel's book is a kindly, accessible guide to sorting through those realities in a Christian perspective."

Sarah Wilson, Lutheran Forum, April 8, 2015


Foreward by Katelyn Beaty
1. Afraid to Want: Fear
2. Aperture of the Heart: Courage
3. Precipice of Hope: Grace
4. Project Kingdom: Good News
5. Visions of Sugarplums: Scripture
6. The Business of Holy: Prayer
7. Bread and Butter: Petition
8. If the Shoe Fits: Confession
9. Be My Neighbor: Community
10. Ruby Slippers: Commitment
Discussion Guide


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Jen Pollock Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is the author of Teach Us to Want and Keeping Place, which each have a video curriculum available through Right Now Media. She is a regular contributor for Christianity Today and Moody Bible Institute's Today in the Word, and she earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in literature from Northwestern University.