The Prayer Life of C.S. Lewis - page 4

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From the Summer 2006 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Prayer Life of C.S. Lewis

by James M. Houston
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

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4. Supplicatory Prayers for Others
  Praying for his brother was perhaps the first step that Lewis made in supplication for many other people throughout the rest of his life. In the correspondence to an “American Lady,” begun in October 1950, we read Lewis promising again and again, “I will have you in my prayers,” “of course we’ll help each other in our prayers,” “let us continue to pray for each other,” “of course I have been praying for you daily, as always, but latterly have found myself doing so with much more concern.” On this last occasion, he narrates an event that was of special circumstance. He had felt one night with strong feeling how good it would be to hear from her with good news. “Then, as if by magic (indeed it is the whitest magic in the world) the letter comes today. Not (lest I should indulge in folly) that your relief had not occurred before my prayer, but as if, in tenderness for my puny faith, God moved me to pray with special earnestness just before He was going to give me the thing. How true that prayers are His prayers really: He speaks to Himself through us.”17
  Lewis was not prepared merely to hold that while petitionary prayer is expressing personal need before God, supplication is praying on behalf of others. Early on he had seen that to supplicate for others to be changed by prayer, implied the pray-er was also willing to see changes in his life as he prayed for others. But petition and supplication are also part of a greater, more mysterious reality of divine soliloquy, since God intends to be not merely “all” as pantheism declares, but “all in all.” If the Holy Spirit is the one who prompts us and gives us the gift of prayer itself, are we not in our supplications and petitions actually entering into divine soliloquy, to celebrate the sovereign good that God has intended for all his creatures? So Lewis quotes a poem he found in an old notebook, author unknown, to illustrate this.

They tell me, Lord, that when I seem
To be in speech with you,
Since but one voice is heard, it’s all a dream,
One talker aping two.

Sometimes it is, yet not as they
Conceive it. Rather, I
Seek in myself the things I hoped to say
But lo!, my springs are dry.

Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The listener’s role and through
My dumb lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.

And thus you neither need reply
Nor can; thus, while we seem
Two talkers, thou art One forever, and I
No dreamer, but thy dream.18

  “Dream” does suggest pantheism, so Lewis adds, perhaps it is more accurate to call it rather “soliloquy.” In fact, Lewis sent Bede Griffiths this poem in 1938, to describe the growing convictions of what prayer meant in his life.19 For this reason, he worked over this poem several times.20

5. Prayer as Friendship with God
  Perhaps many of us find that the growth of prayer is also associated with the cultivation of friendships. It is as if the relational quality of life that is nurtured and cultivated in personal friendships on the horizontal level of companionship assists us also to deepen friendship with God in prayer on the vertical level. This, then, is another trait of Lewis. He grew in prayer as he grew into friendships. Sometimes they were boon companionships, at other times they sprung from correspondence with strangers who became real friends, like “the American Lady.” Perhaps too, as Lewis leaned on confidants in his distresses, so he should reach out to others in their needs too. “Forgiveness,” he once said, “is another name for being forgiven.” This reciprocity explains perhaps the largesse he gave to others in his enormous correspondence, indicative of what he felt he received from his trust in God.
  So at the outbreak of the war in 1939, he wrote to his old pupil and friend Bede Griffiths, “I was terrified to find how fearful I was by the crisis. Pray for me for courage.”21 Again he writes to him in 1954, “I had prayed hard for a couple of nights before that my faith might be strengthened. The response was immediate, and your book gave the finishing touch” (that is, The Golden String, Griffiths’ autobiography).22 Again, on December 20, 1961, Lewis wrote Griffiths after his wife’s death: “I prayed when I buried my wife, my whole sexual nature should be buried with her, and it seems it has happened. Thus one recurrent trial has vanished from my life—an enormous liberty. Of course, this may be old age....”23

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