Reflections June 2010 - Hindrances to Prayer

June 2010

Hindrances to Prayer

n The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives us insights into one of the devil’s key strategies against believers through the advice of a senior devil to his younger protégé:

The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether. When the patient is an adult recently re-converted to the Enemy’s party, like your man, this is best done by encouraging him to remember, or to think he remembers, the parrot-like nature of his prayers in childhood. In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularized; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional mood in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part…If this fails, you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment…But even if He defeats your fi rst attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon. The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you look into your patient’s mind when he is praying, you will not fi nd that! If you examine the object to which he is attending, you will fi nd that it is a composite object containing many quite ridiculous ingredients…But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him…Once all his thoughts and images have been fl ung aside, or if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it—why, then it is that the incalculable may occur.

Whether we are seeking a devotional mood or special feelings or praying to a distorted image of God, the effect is the same - to draw our attention away from the true object of faith and source of help, the Living God. Is he the focus of your prayers?

 

1 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (Chicago: Lord and King Associates, Inc.), pp.33-35.

© 2012 C.S. Lewis Institute. “Reflections” is published monthly by the C.S. Lewis Institute.
8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301 • Springfield, VA 22151-2110 • 703.914.5602 • 800.813.9209 • fax 703.894.1072 • www.cslewisinstitute.org

To view a pdf version of this "Reflections," please click here.

To go to the "Reflections" archives, please click here.

 
Support Discipleship
Come partner with us in the
call to develop disciples for Christ!

Learn More

 
 
Discipleship Resources
Audios, videos, publications, &
small group DVDs for heart & mind

Learn More

 
 
Events
Find discipleship conferences
and events in your area.

Learn More

 
 
Fellows Program
Do you want to experience the
power of a transformed life?

Learn More

 
  • Different Ways to Pray
    Marjorie Lamp Mead wonderfully explains that there are many different and distinct ways to... Read more

  • Getting a Bigger View of Prayer
    Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to our prayers? Read... Read more

  • Why Pray?
    'If God is omniscient, doesn't he know everything we need? And if he is both omnipotent an... Read more

  • The Secret to Praying
    Paul Miller explains that the secret to praying is becoming like a little child. Listen... Read more

  • The Prayer Life of C.S. Lewis - Part II
    James Houston continues his thoughtful look at the prayer life of C.S. Lewis. Listen... Read more