Monday, October 08, 2007

C.S. Lewis on Prayer

In my search for insights into prayer, I've come across some quotes from Lewis that have been very helpful for me. Probably my favorite is the first from a well-loved novel from the Narnian Chronicles. So often truth is revealed best when it's in a story, don't you think?

"Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals," said Digory.
"I'm sure Aslan would have, if you'd asked him," said Fledge.
"Wouldn't he know without being asked?" said Polly.
"I've no doubt he would," said the Horse (still with his mouth full). "But I've a sort of idea he likes to be asked."
The Magician's Nephew

The efficacy of prayer more of a problem than the efficacy of all human acts, i.e., if you say 'It is useless to pray because Providence already knows what is best and will certainly do it', then why is it no equally useless (and for the same reason) to try to alter the course of events in any way whatever?
Letters (1 April 1952)

If there is--as the very concept of prayer presupposes--an adaptation between the free actions of men in prayer and the course of events, this adaptation is from the beginning inherent in the great single creative act. Our prayers are heard--don't say 'have been heard' or you are putting God into time--not only before we make them but before we are made ourselves.
Letters to Malcolm, ch. 9

...if His action lingers
Till men have prayer, and suffers their weak prayers indeed
To move as very muscles His delaying fingers,
Who, in His longanimity and love for our
Small dignities, enfeebles, for a time, His power.
'Sonnet', Poems

(I find the fragment from the poem above beautiful. This rings true to me: he delays Himself so that we can be involved in His will--how exciting is that? To think that out of His love for our "small dignities" that God might "enfeeble" His power, to allow us to participate in His Will! What a gift then it is to pray, wouldn't you say?)

"Whether it is any good praying for actual things"--the first question is what one means by "any good." Is it a good thing to do? Yes: however we explain it, we are told to ask for particular things such as our daily bread. Does it "work"? Certainly not like a mechanical operation or a magical spell. It is a request which of course the Other Party may or may not, for His own good reasons, grant. But how can it change God's will? Well---but how very odd it would be if God in His actions towards me were bound to ignore what I did (including my prayers). Surely He hadn't to forgive me for sins I didn't commit or to cure me of errors into which I have never fallen! In other words His will (however changeless in some ultimate metaphysical sense) must be related to what I am and do? And once grant that, and why should my asking or not asking not be one of the things He takes into account? At any rate He said He would--and He ought to know. (We often talk as if He were not very good at Theology!)
The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

One of the purposes for which God instituted prayer may have been to bear witness that the course of events is not governed like a state but created like a work of art to which every being makes its contribution and (in prayer) a conscious contribution, and in which every being is both an end and a means.
Letters to Malcolm

Can I get an, "Amen" on that last one?

1 comment:

Scott Lyons said...

I love how Lewis incarnates prayer - makes it something solid, something to work with, something effective.

These are great quotes, all of them, though I think the bit from the sonnet moved me most - that God enfeebles Himself, that He makes Himself poor that we might, by His poverty, become rich.

Thanks for gathering and sharing them, Dan.