Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

Choosing to Trust

I’ve been thinking about trust lately. It has been said that trust must be earned, and that once lost it is hard to regain. But it occurs to me that trust is a choice, and that sometimes we must choose to trust even when it isn’t earned.

I decided to check The Quotable Lewis to see what C.S. Lewis had to say on the subject of trust and I found this little gem:

To love involves trusting the beloved beyond the evidence, even against much evidence. No man is our friend who believes in our good intentions only when they are proved. No man is our friend who will not be very slow to accept evidence against them. Such confidence, between one man and another, is in fact almost universally praised as a moral beauty, nor blamed as a logical error. And the suspicious man is blamed for a meanness of character, not admired for the excellence of his logic.
C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night, “On Obstinacy in Belief” (1955), p. 26.

It seems that Lewis agrees with my thought that trust is a choice. (I always love it when I discover that Lewis and I agree on something.)

We choose to trust God in spite of the lack of absolute proof that He exists and is on our side. In the face of tragedy and the existence of evil in this world, we choose to trust God to have our greater good as His chief aim. We choose to trust “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV). We trust God because we believe that He is inherently trustworthy.

But to live we must trust others as well. There would be no basis for a civilized society without some degree of trust. Such trust can be difficult because experience and scripture often tell us that humans are inherently untrustworthy. The prophet Jeremiah observed that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV).

In spite of evidence of untrustworthiness all around us, we must trust someone. So we also choose to trust our spouse, our family, and our close friends; we choose to trust those we love, because as Lewis says, “love involves trusting.” Sometimes we encounter evidence that suggests even our closest beloved family and friends are untrustworthy—not surprising, since they are human. It is then that we face the real choice: to continue to trust or to give up on love.

It occurs to me that this is the point at which we must really examine the situation with a critical eye—not critical of others, but critical of our own hearts. If we can honestly say that we have always been trustworthy ourselves, perhaps we can justifiably decide to give up on love and choose to no longer trust. But I suspect that none of us can honestly reach that conclusion. To do so in and of itself is evidence of our own untrustworthiness. As the apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 (NIV). If we think we are inherently more trustworthy than our loved ones, we deceive ourselves.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that we do not deceive God for He alone fully knows our untrustworthiness. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b (NIV).

This day you and I must choose. Will we trust God, who is unequaled in His trustworthiness? If we do, then we are free to choose to also trust our loved ones because we know that God is in control and will bless our choice with His grace and love.

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A Treasure Trove of Quotes

One of my favorite authors of all time is C.S. Lewis. The man was brilliant, his arguments logical, and his imagination astounding. I recently returned a book that I got for Christmas, and in its place got three others. (I should only have gotten one, but my husband is so nice and let me get three when I couldn’t decide). One of the three books I got is The Quotable Lewis. I love it because when I come across a Lewis quote I can use this book to determine what book it is from. It contains 600 pages of quotes from Lewis’ many books, all organized by topic kind of like a dictionary.

I was flipping through this book last night, just reading random quotes. I came across one that I wanted to share.

It is clear that there never was a time when nothing existed; otherwise nothing would exist now. Miracles, ch. 11, pg. 88 (1947).

This is a wonderful example of Lewis’ logical reasoning. How would anything exist now if there was nothing in the first place?

This logical argument doesn’t reach the point of determining what or who it is that always existed, but it does lead one to inquire about it. It makes no logical sense to start any inquiry about our universe from the standpoint of nothing becoming something.

Lewis was a very learned man and a prolific reader and writer. He had read and studied all the great philosophers that came before him as well as his contemporaries. During his early adult life he was an atheist, but eventually came to realize that atheism was not a logically tenable position.

No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words of Genesis, that “in the beginning God made Heaven and Earth.” Miracles, ch. 4, pg. 33 (1947).

I am not nearly as well read as Lewis, but I have to agree.

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Pondering Charity

A couple of weeks ago I received this quote in my daily Quotemeal email from Heartlight.org:

If our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our charitable expenditure excludes them. — C. S. Lewis

This quote has been in the back of my mind ever since as I’ve pondered my own level of charitable giving. There are things I would like to have – such as a nicer car – but do not have in part because of my charitable expenditures. And yet I know that I still live much more comfortably than a large percentage of the population of this world. I know people who live on a much tighter budget than I do, and I wonder sometimes if I’m doing enough for the kingdom of God.

In a couple of weeks I will be part of a group of volunteers from my church to go to a local women’s shelter called Shepherd’s Door to cook and serve dinner for the 40 women and children who live there. If it were not for Shepherd’s Door, these women and their kids would be living on the streets with next to nothing. Many have left abusive relationships and have little hope. I am excited about the opportunity to be a blessing to these women, and still the time and money I will expend on their behalf scarcely seems enough.

C.S. Lewis says our charitable giving should “pinch or hamper us.” It is easy to give out of our excess, but a much harder thing to give up the things we’ve come to believe we need.

There is a bright line between what we want and what we need, but we tend to allow that line to be blurred in our own minds. We cling to what we want as if it were a need, forgetting others who truly do lack what they need simply to survive.

The list of needs is short: food, water, clothing, shelter, and God.

We do not need rib eye steaks, bottled and vitamin-enhanced sparkling water, designer clothes and jewelry, a 3,000 square foot homes, and big fancy churches to attend. Those things all fall in the “want” category.

We categorize so many things as needs, such as cell phones (preferably an iPhone or other Smartphone), new cars, cable television, air conditioning in our homes, a built-in dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, and a home computer or laptop (like the one I’m typing this on). None of these are truly necessities; they are luxuries that much of the world population – even in the U.S. – does not enjoy.

Perhaps Lewis is exactly right – our charitable expenditures ought to pinch and hamper us just a bit more than they do.

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C.S. Lewis and My Tuesday Three

I know it has only been a few weeks since I started the “My Tuesday Three” theme, but I’m already discovering that it is much more difficult than I imagined. It seems as though I must be more focused on seeing the “three” posts throughout the week, and if I don’t have a lot of time to read other blogs that is very challenging. This last week, I just was not able to accomplish this because I’ve been focused on a lot of other things.

Not wanting to completely let go of the “My Tuesday Three” theme altogether, and fully planning to get back to identifying three blog posts over this next week, I decided to post about a different type of “three” this week. I want to share three of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes.

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

I love this quote because it’s just so to the point. It’s classic Lewis logic. The Truth of God’s glory is a constant and cannot be made false because someone denies it. Richard Dawkins or Frederich Neitzsche claiming that God does not exist does not make that reality.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

This is my all-time favorite C.S. Lewis quote! It describes how I feel about my faith. Through Christ, I see why the world is the way it is and also how it could be. I see that love is the highest virtue and the pride is the greatest sin.

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”
It seems simplistic, to put all of mankind into two categories. But I think Lewis got this one right. I’ve decided I want to be the kind of person who says to my Lord, “Thy will be done.” How about you? What kind of person are you?

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The Humility of God in Christ

I started this post, knowing I was writing it to post for Monday — Music Monday, that is. But I had no ideas for what song to post. I didn’t hear any song that had sparked the idea for a post this week. But God gave me the perfect song just as I finished writing this post, which you’ll see at the end.

Last week I received a C.S. Lewis quote in my Quotemeal email from Heartlight.org that I was not familiar with. I would like to cite to the book it is from, but I don’t know which one that is. But it was one of those quotes that just cried out to be the starting point for a blog post, and so I copied and pasted it and saved it as a draft. It was the only idea I had for my Monday post, so I started writing. Here’s the quote:

It is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up “our own” when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud, He would hardly have us on such terms.    – C. S. Lewis

If God were proud, He would not have us at all, and certainly not as we called on Him only when we were in dire straits. But our Lord Jesus is not so proud, though He certainly had every right to be. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
but made himself nothing,
   taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV).

So why do so many go their own way, thinking they are just fine without God, until things go wrong and they need to be saved? Why do so many not realize that from the day of their birth they are already in dire straits and in need of a savior? Why did I, for that matter, have to reach the depths of major depression to realize I truly needed God, before I “struck my colors to God” and called on Him for help? Why did I have to get to the point in my life where it seemed I had nothing worth giving before I offered all to Him?

The amazing thing is that He accepted me even then. On top of that, He took the nothing that I had and has turned it into something worthwhile. He took me, a poor, wretched and lost sinner, and turned me into a daughter of the King.

It may be a poor thing for us to cast our lot with God only when we have determined we have no other option. But it is not a worthless thing. No, it is the most worthwhile thing we could ever do; because Christ, in His humility, gave all so that you and I might be saved even as one hanging next to Him on the adjacent cross with no other options left to us.

Are you still moving through life thinking you don’t really need God? Are you waiting until you hit rock bottom to call out for Him to lift you from the pit? There is no doubt He will take you then, but why wait? You are already in need of His saving grace, His amazing grace, and He humbly awaits your cry.

So what’s the perfect song to go with this post? “Amazing Grace” sung by Elvis Presley. I have even heard this song this week, and we sang it in church a week ago. My son plays it on the ocarina and it is one of my all time favorite hymns. I think that the rendition by Elvis is appropriate because Elvis is one of those who had to hit rock bottom after flying sky high before he realized his true wretchedness and need for a savior.

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Understanding Vindictiveness in the Psalms and Real Life

I’ve been reading (slowly) Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis. It is going slowly in part because, having read through chapter 4, I was compelled to go back and reread chapter 3. The title of chapter 3 is “The Cursings.” As is typical with Lewis, he begins this book by first addressing the more troubling aspects of his overall topic before getting on to the more palatable aspects. This chapter is sandwiched between the chapters on “Judgment in the Psalms” and “Death in the Psalms,” both of which were interesting and challenging.

But there was something about chapter 3 that seemed particularly interesting to me. There is something in this chapter that shines a light on the topic of mercy that I and some fellow bloggers have written about recently, and that light reveals a very different side of the equation.

First, what exactly does Lewis mean by the cursings? Some specific examples that he refers to include:

 6 Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
   let an accuser stand at his right hand.
7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
   and may his prayers condemn him.
8 May his days be few;
   may another take his place of leadership.
9 May his children be fatherless
   and his wife a widow.
10 May his children be wandering beggars;
   may they be driven from their ruined homes.
11 May a creditor seize all he has;
   may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
12 May no one extend kindness to him
   or take pity on his fatherless children.
13 May his descendants be cut off,
   their names blotted out from the next generation.
14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
   may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
15 May their sins always remain before the LORD,
   that he may blot out their name from the earth.
Psalm 109:6-15 (NIV).

8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
   happy is the one who repays you
   according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
   and dashes them against the rocks.
Psalm 137:8-9 (NIV).

This sort of cursing, even of one’s enemies, seems quite harsh to Lewis, as it does to me. And yet there is something in me that imagines that God will treat the truly wicked in such a way. Those who abuse women and small children, those who commit murder and seem to have no remorse, and those who greedily swindle the elderly and the downtrodden out of their last penny, deserve such punishment, and so this type of cursing seems natural.

But when we read the words of Christ telling us to ” love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43 (NIV)), it is difficult to reconcile this with the prayers of cursing that are found in the Psalms. I have often, in my own thinking, reconciled these seemingly conflicting notions with the understanding that the Psalmist trusted God to know when to answer the prayer of cursing because God knows the hearts of the enemy that is being cursed. I think Lewis has pondered out a better way to reconcile the cursings and the command to love, and shown the value of an attitude that might lead one to pray such a prayer in relation to the truly wicked.

Lewis tells a story of overhearing some soldiers during World War II who believed that their government had fabricated the evils of Hitler and the Nazi regime in order to “pep up” the troops; and yet those soldiers were not the least bit bothered by this. “That our rulers should falsely attribute the worst of crimes to some of their fellow-men in order to induce others of their fellow-men to shed their blood seemed to them a matter of course.” Reflections, pg. 29. Lewis argued that these uncaring soldiers were in a worse condition than the vindictive Psalmist because they had seemingly lost any moral compass of right and wrong. Although a vindictive reaction might be a sin, it at least indicated an awareness that a wrong had been committed.

Lewis goes on to write:

Thus the absence of anger, especially that sort of anger which we call indignation, can, in my opinion, be a most alarming symptom. And the presence of indignation may be a good one. Even when that indignation passes into bitter personal vindictiveness, it may still be a good symptom, though bad in itself. It is a sin; but it at least shows that those who commit it have not sunk below the level at which the temptation to that sin exists — just as the sins (often quite appalling) of the great patriot or the great reformer point to something in him above mere self. If the Jews cursed more bitterly than the Pagans this was, I think, at least in part because they took right and wrong more seriously. For if we look at their railings we find they are usually angry not simply because these things have been done to them but because these things are manifestly wrong, are hateful to God as well as to the victim. Reflections, pg. 30.

Of course, as Lewis also points out, the danger exists of letting one’s indignation over wrongs that are hateful to God turn into self-righteousness, spiritual pride, and persecuting zeal. As with many good intentions and aspirations, taken to an extreme hating sin can become the sin of hating the sinner, and forgetting one’s own sinful nature.

I still believe that the better course of action, when faced with someone who has committed an evil act, is to pray for their repentance and salvation. It is far better, in God’s kingdom, that the lost be found than that they be abandoned. But I am grateful to Lewis for shedding light on a different side of the indignation and vindictiveness I have seen expressed towards various “evil” people who have been in the news. That’s what I love about C.S. Lewis; I always find something in his writings that challenge my thinking and help me to better understand God and my fellow human beings.

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Finding God in Grief and Trials

I’ve recently finished reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I was quite surprised by how quickly I was able to get through its 76 pages plus Foreword and Introduction. Usually Lewis requires one to re-read numerous paragraphs to fully grasp just exactly what it is he is trying to say. I’ve often found Lewis to be quite intellectually challenging, though always worth the effort. But this book was different; it was more emotional than intellectual; nonetheless it was well worth reading.

Lewis wrote this book, though not intending it to be a book exactly, shortly after his wife Joy Davidman died of cancer. It consists of his journaled thoughts and feelings in working through his grief over his great loss and the impact it had on his faith. Though his faith remained intact, and was perhaps even strengthened by his grief, it was shaken to its core by this experience.

In the midst of Lewis’ rantings at God and doubts about his faith he shares some very profound thoughts about the nature of God, faith, and the inevitable trials we all face in this life. Regarding the trials of life, he wrote:

But of course one must take ‘sent to try us’ the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. A Grief, pg. 52.

This reminded me of the story of Job. God allowed Satan to test Job, to put him through trials of losing his possessions and family, as well as an attack on his health. Job 1-2. God allows this to prove to Satan that Job will not lose his faith and will not curse God; knowing all the time exactly how Job would respond.

When we begin to forget the core of our faith or fail to notice a weakness in our thinking about faith or God, it is then that God will allow trials in our lives; not as an experiment to find out how we will respond, but as a means of reminding us of the power of our faith or of pointing out a hole in our faith fence that needs to be mended lest the enemy sneak in unannounced to destroy us completely.

As Lewis began to stand firmly on his faith in God once again, and to see the weaknesses in his own understanding of God, he pondered whether he was “sidling back to God” simply as a means to once again see his beloved Joy some day in Heaven. It is at this juncture in Lewis’ though processes that I came to this wonderful quote:

But then of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all. That’s what was really wrong with all those popular pictures of happy reunions ‘on the further shore’; not the simple-minded and very earthly images, but the fact that they make an End of what we can get only as a by-product of the true End. A Grief, pg. 68.

We must seek God and a relationship with Him for its own sake, not for whatever else we can get from it, from Him.

It seems to me that the same can be cited as the problem with hellfire and brimstone preaching. It calls one to seek God not for His own sake, but merely as a means to avoiding a most unpleasant situation eternally.

There are many books that speculate as to what both Heaven and Hell will be like. But to me, the best description of Heaven is to be in the presence of God; the best description of Hell is to be separated from Him; all other details of either place are superfluous.

Perhaps it is precisely when we forget that the aim of our faith must be God Himself that He sends a trial of loss, so that we may see that we have placed some inferior desire ahead of our desire for Him alone, but that if we turn back to Him we will weather the loss and be whole again. Without the trial we might miss out on the wonder of the only relationship we truly cannot live without.

You see, God is more concerned with our spiritual well-being and the strength of our relationship with Him (the most essential thing in our life), than He is with our comfort. In Lewis’ case, it was the loss of his beloved wife that allowed him to fully grasp this truth. For another whose health and physical prowess are their desired ends and where they place their faith, the loss necessary to reveal their need for God might involve a major illness or injury. If one has focused on their career and find their worth in their occupational success, the loss that leads them back to God might be prolonged unemployment.

Is there something that is keeping you from seeking God for His own sake? Will you heed the subtle messages sent by God to draw you to Him, or will it require a major loss or trial to set you in a right relationship with Him? Lewis, in spite of his intellectual and even real faith in God, found that His profound loss brought him closer to his Creator. Sometimes that is what is required.

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Humbly Rejoicing in God-Given Talents

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and what I had learned from that book about prayer habits. At that time I wrote that I had discovered a number of things in this book that would make great blog posts, and I am finally getting back to it to share some of Lewis’ wisdom.

If you haven’t read this book and don’t know what it is about, I recommend you check out my brief synopsis of it in my previous post titled “Prayer Habits Affect Prayer Quality.”

In the fourteenth letter of Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, we learn a little something about humility. Scripture is clear that God hates pride and loves humility. We all want to be humble, but what exactly does that mean? Often we think that means we should think less of ourselves, not brag or boast about our talents to others. But the talents that each of us has are given to us by God for a reason. But the devil would like nothing better than for us to not use those talents for the good of our fellow man or for the glory of God. Screwtape writes:

To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents — or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. Screwtape, pg. 71.

The “Enemy” of which he writes is, of course, God. And though this is a letter written from the perspective of a demon, it contains a wisdom about God’s desire for mankind, and each man individually, that we need to grasp hold of.

We are created in the image of God and have been blessed with skills and talents that come from Him alone. He has given us those talents not so that we can hide them under a rock of shame and humility, but that we should use them to boast in and glorify the Creator who gave them to us.

True humility comes not when we downplay our talents, but when we point to God as their source. And when we also point to God as the source of our neighbor’s talents and rejoice in the fruits of our neighbor’s labors in employing his own talents to glorify God.

An example that comes to mind is the new Christian literary journal that I contribute to at Idylls for the King. Currently this new blog has 10 contributing authors, of which I am just one. Each of us has been given a talent at writing poetry, fiction, or songs. Each of us uses that talent to glorify God and to share His love and mercy with the world. Each day when our “editor” Eden Ellis posts another one of our submissions I rejoice that the words of another are lifting up Jesus for the world to know.

Sometimes, as Christian bloggers, we second guess ourselves and minimize our own God-given talents to write to His glory. I’ve seen it time and time again, one of my fellow bloggers commenting that maybe they shouldn’t be doing this, maybe they aren’t writing the right thing. I’ve done it myself. It seems like we are trying to be humble, but is it a distorted humility, the type of humility the devil would love for us to embrace? If our humility leads to a criticism of the talent God has bestowed upon us, is it not in essence a criticism of God himself? Perhaps it amounts to a suggestion that He didn’t really know what He was doing when He gave each of us the ability to write clearly and concisely, or to understand and explain the scriptures and to share His truth.

I pray we, as Christian bloggers, would not succumb to the temptation to embrace this false humility. I pray we would instead embrace the blessed talent that God has given us, recognizing always the source of our talents as God himself, and rejoice in each other’s sharing of His truth with a world that needs to know Him.

We were created by God in His image to glorify Him. Let us reflect Him in all that we do, say, and write.

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Pride Is the Chief Cause of Our Woes

I heard an awesome sermon in church last Sunday. There was nothing in the sermon that I didn’t know already. It was a presentation of the Gospel. But somehow it seemed so wonderous and new, like I was hearing it for the first time.

Part of the message was that according to the Christian faith, the problems of the world are not “out there.” They are in each of our own hearts. The problem is not that people are committing various sins, but that we are, each and every one of us, stricken with the disease of pride that leads to sin. Pride is rebellion against God, and it creates enmity between me and God as well as between me and my fellow human beings.

Our guest minister, Chris Nye, made the statement that “pride turns angels into demons.” It also turns humans into sinners of all kinds.

Now none of this is new information for me. I’ve even written a blog post on the evils of pride before and how it is the chief sin that led to Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven.

As part of the sermon, which was based on Psalm 51, Chris talked about the story of David and Bathsheba. I’ve read this story of how David’s pride as King led him to take Uriah’s wife because, after all, whatever the King wants, the King gets. And how David was then humbled before God by the prophet Nathan pointing out his sin. This story was not new to me. I even wrote a blog post in which I mentioned this story.

Although no one part of Chris’ sermon was new to me — he even quoted some of my favorite C.S. Lewis — it was as if I was hearing the Gospel for the first time. It was fresh and new, and it spoke to the struggle I was having that very day and that had been plaguing me for several weeks. Somehow it revealed my own pride that I had so handily dismissed or ignored.

This is what I love about the Word of God and the Gospel. It never gets old or stale. It is always relevant.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV).

It’s not a new story, but the Gospel is a Truth that is relevant to each new situation that comes along. The Bible’s focus on pride as the root of all sin explains so many, if not all, of the difficult situations we find ourselves in. Pride comes disguised as a variety of “lesser” sins, and sometimes even as virtues, but somewhere deep down pride is running the show. And pride always creates enmity. The only way to true peace — within myself, with God, and with others — is humility.

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Prayer Habits Affect Prayer Quality

On the plane home from San Francisco this past Wednesday, I started rereading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The last time I read it was 8 or 9 years ago, and I thought it was time to see if there was something more I could learn from this classic work that I missed the first time through.

For those unfamiliar with this book, let me give you a brief synopsis. The entire books consists of a series of letters from Screwtape, a high-level department head in Hell, and his nephew Wormwood, a low-level tempter in England during the war. Wormwood is assigned to “the patient” and his task, as is the task of all demons, is to keep his patient from becoming a Christian. Wormwood fails in this initial task, and it them becomes his responsibility to deter the patient from becoming a useful and strong Christian, or to perhaps give up his faith altogether.

Throughout the letters, Screwtape refers to God as the Enemy, because, of course, God is the enemy of Satan and his followers. It seems odd that one could learn anything useful from this series of letters, but there is much wisdom regarding what to guard against when it comes to the temptations of the devil.

In the preface, C.S. Lewis makes a statement about demons that I think continues to be true today:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. Screwtape, pg. IX.

As I am reading through these letters, I am noting some advice that I find particularly useful and relevant to remember. Each one could be developed into its own blog post. So for this blog post I am going to focus on just one of the letters and its advice. Then I will discuss others in future blog posts.

Screwtape’s fourth letter to Wormwood is on the subject of prayer. He first of all suggests that the patient should be persuaded to avoid the practice altogether, if at all possible. However, in the event that the patient does actually pray, Screwtape offers some advice as to how Wormwood can try to make that prayer less than useful to the patient.

One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray ‘with moving lips and bended knees’ but merely ‘composed his spirit to love’ and indulged ‘a sense of supplication’. That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practised by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite a long time. At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. Screwtape, pg. 16.

This passage reminded me of the many years I thought kneeling to pray was unimportant, so long as I was praying to God. Since I have started  praying on my knees each morning, I have come to realize how important this position of supplication is in bringing honor and glory to God, and in drawing me closer to Him because of the humility it requires.

Another thing about kneeling to pray is that it is easier to remain focused on God. When we pray standing or while we are driving or sitting in a chair where we frequently read or watch TV, it is much easier to become distracted or to be only half focused on the fact that we are trying to pray. Praying in any one of these positions sends the message to our own soul that communication with God is not a priority but a side thought. When we kneel, however, we are saying to God and to our own soul that we desire to give communication with God the priority it deserves.

I’m not saying that we never get distracted when we pray on our knees. I know that I certainly do, but it is easier to get back on track and return our focus to listening to our Lord. As the decision to kneel to pray is repeated regularly, it becomes a habit and then communication with God becomes a habit as well. As we put a priority on communicating with God, He is faithful to respond. Even Screwtape knew this and warns Wormwood of this fact.

But of course the Enemy will not meantime be idle. Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action. He is cynically indifferent to the dignity of His position, and ours, as pure spirits, and to human animals on their knees He pours out self-knowledge in a quite shameless fashion. Screwtape, pg. 17.

As Screwtape reveals, one of the most wonderful things about praying on our knees is the truth about our own condition and need for God that He reveals to us. For some, this revelation of their own sinfulness is too much and will result in less direct communication with God. But for those who truly love and appreciate our Lord, His revelation of wherein we need to rely on Him to overcome our selfish nature is a wonderful result of humble prayer.

Do you desire more direct and close communication with God? Have you nonetheless been avoiding literally getting on your knees to pray because you think you (and God) are happy with your current prayer habits? I challenge you to stop listening to the tempter’s suggestions that you do not need to humble yourself and bend your knee before God. Open your eyes and your heart to see the lie that how you pray is not relevant to the quality of your prayer life. If you consciously decide to kneel to pray each day, you will develop a wonderful habit that will draw you closer to your Creator and will cause Him to draw closer to you.

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