Lewis, C. S. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer: Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue between Man and God. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc. 1992.

Letters to Malcom by C. S. Lewis

Letter II

My mistake [referring to praying without words] was what Pascal, if I remember correctly, calls “Error of Stoicism:” thinking we can do always what we can do sometimes. p. 11

As Solomon said at the dedication of the temple, each man who prays knows “The plague of his own heart.” p. 12

My grandfather, I’m told, used to say that he “looked forward to having some very interesting conversations with St. Paul when he got to heaven.” Two clerical gentlemen talking at ease in a club! It never seemed to cross his mind that an encounter with St. Paul might be rather an overwhelming experience even for an Evangelical clergyman of good family. Bu when Dante saw the great apostles in heaven they affected him like mountains. There’s lots to be said against devotions to saints; but at least they keep on reminding us that we are very small people compared with them. How much smaller before their Master? p. 13

Letter III

Oh for mercy’s sake. Not you too! Why, just because I raised an objection to your parallel between prayer and a man making love to his own wife, must you trot out all the old rigmarole about the “holiness” of sex and start lecturing me as if I were a Manichaean? p. 14

Poor Aphrodite! They have sand-papered most of the Homeric laughter off her face. p. 15

The body ought to pray as well as the soul. p. 17

Letter V

I was never worried by the words lead us not into temptation, but a great many of my correspondents are. The word suggests to them what someone has called “a fiend-like conception of God,” as one who first forbids us certain fruits and then lures us to taste them. But the Greek word (πειρασμός) means “trial”—“trying circumstances”—of every sort; a far larger word than English “temptation.” So that the petition essentially is “Make straight our paths. Spare us, were possible, from all crises, whether of temptation or affliction.” By the way, you yourself, though you’ve doubtless forgotten it, gave me an excellent gloss on it: years ago in the pub at Coton. You said it added a sort of reservation to all our preceding prayers. As if we said, “In my ignorance I have asked for A, B, and C. But don’t give me them if you foresee that they would in reality be to me either snares or sorrows.” And you quoted Juvenal, numinibus vota exaudita malignis, “enormous prayers which heaven in vengeance grants.” For we make plenty of such prayers. If God had granted all the silly prayers I’ve made in my life, where should I be now? p. 28

Letter VIII

We all try to accept with some sort of submission our afflictions when they actually arrive. But the prayer in Gethsemane shows that the preceding anxiety is equally God’s will and equally part of our human destiny. The perfect Man experienced it. And the servant is not greater than the master. We are Christians, not Stoics. p. 43