Both of these Letters seem to be focused on our prayer life. Let's see what we can discern here....
Letter 3 Once again (as always), the demons' MO is to keep us confused, keep our mind 'fuzzled', so we cannot pray as effectively and as powerfully as we are allowed. The enemies have noted that our human tendencies and flaws often derail our prayer life - no kidding. We "neglect the obvious" when we pray, by missing (ignoring?) the things in our heart that we really need to pray about. We spend a bunch of time trying to be uber-spiritual in our prayer 'performance' which is, at best, a complete distraction to getting down to business. When we pray for other people, we tend to over-step our authority just a bit, praying for the healing of their soul (God's job) when we would be better off praying for healing in their body.
I had an 'ouch' moment with Screwtape's observation that our attitude when praying for a loved one is often w-a-y different than how we treat them in our day-to-day interactions. Speaking of 'ouch'..... How about when the demon points out that we have no trouble finding fault in others (and, hence, a need to pray for them) while conveniently overlooking the same fault in ourselves. Just like how we expect our words to be taken only at face value, while we judge the words of others with interpretation worthy of a Ph.D.
Lastly, a little 'challenge' here at the end of Letter 3...... Screwtape wonders if the mother of Wormwood's "patient" (apparently, a young man) could be jealous of her son's 'religious conversion' as an adult when he had every opportunity to 'find God' as a child (under her exemplary example, no doubt). Lewis then compares this parent-child dynamic to "the elder brother in the Enemy's story". What do you think that's all about?
The topic of prayer (and our inadequacies therein) continues. Screwtape refers to the "beginner" pray-er which, I take it, could mean the new Christian but also really applies to all of us. He talks about how our prayers are often centered around our immediate emotional and physical states, rather than on our intellect and will, rendering them 'shaky' in succeeding.
3 "Biggies" I take out of this Letter are this:
1. The physical posture we take while praying does make a difference. We all (should) know that what our body is doing has a direct impact on our state of mind/soul. I can tell you that I have personally experienced the power (an understatement) of a prayer procured while flat on my face on the floor, posture resembling the shape of a crime scene chalk drawing.
2. The common thought that demons can 'put ideas in our head' is a myth. What they really (and can only) do is keep thoughts (0f God and Godly truths) out. A critical distinction, as I see it. The demons find it most supportive of their prayer-sabotaging work when we focus on ourselves and take our eyes off God. Screwtape describes how we try to produce 'good feelings' when we pray that we think will produce prayer 'success'. He offers some 'demon-preferred' ("9 out of 10 demons prefer".... sorry) examples of our ineffective prayerful mindset:
Praying for Courage while trying to feel Brave Praying for Forgiveness while trying to feel Forgiven
Like God needs us to feel a certain way before He can do what He's going to do.
3. We tend to pray to our mental "composite" of what God is, objectifying Him based on our weak, human-limited images of the Creator of the universe. The demons know exactly who God is. So, their job is much easier when we are distracted by our imagination and praying to a 'thing' (image) we have made, rather than to the One that has made us. To paraphrase Lewis here, we should pray to God: Not to what "I think thou art" but (to) "what thou knowest thyself to be". As Lewis closes Letter 4, he notes that if we were to ever pray in this fashion, we might want to be careful what we pray for, because we just might get it! (this part is not a Lewis quote).
Thoughts, anyone? Jump in!
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