“The Privilege and Power of Prayer” from C.S. Lewis Institute

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Reflections October 2003—The Privilege and Power of Prayer

THE PRIVILEGE AND POWER OF PRAYER

rayer is God’s idea, not ours. It is his gift to us, and it has a specific role in his plan for our lives and the world. C.S. Lewis certainly believed and taught this. On several occasions, when talking of prayer, he quoted with approval the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous statement that God “instituted prayer in order to give his creatures the dignity of causality.”1
Some of us may find it hard to believe that God allows human beings to cause real events to happen through prayer. Lewis had no such misgivings. “It may be a mystery why he should allow us to cause real events at all; but it is no odder that he should allow us to cause them by praying than by any other method.”2

We may well ask: How can God answer our prayers without introducing chaos into his plans for the world? After all, he alone knows what is best in all circumstances and has set his plan accordingly. But, as Lewis notes, “He made his own plan or plot of history such that it admits of a certain amount of free play and can be modified according to our prayers.”3

Lewis, of course, is just telling us in his own words what the Bible has long told us about prayer. He is also telling us what he had discovered about prayer in his own experience. And, it was mainly from his experiences that he learned about prayer, for he found little help in books on prayer. We, too, can discover these things in our experience if we will learn to pray.

Developing a healthy prayer life is not easy in the modern world; but neither is it impossible. Busyness, distractions, spiritual laziness, material abundance, self-sufficiency and a host of other things tend to push prayer to the margins of life. But there is a sure way forward. If we wish to embrace the “dignity of causality” and discover the power of prayer in our lives and the world, we will need first of all to recognize afresh the importance of prayer—not just in emergencies but also for all of life. Reading what the Bible says about prayer can help us here. Then we will need to come to a firm decision to make time for daily prayer—not just two or three minutes before rushing off to our busy day but quiet, unhurried time in God’s presence each day. Finally, we will want to follow the example of Jesus’ disciples, and ask, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1).

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us.
He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.
Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

JAMES 5:16b-18 (NIV)


The World’s Last Night, A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc., ©1960, p. 9.
2 God in the Dock, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ©1970, p. 106.
3 ibid., p. 106.
© 2012 C.S. Lewis Institute. “Reflections” is published monthly by the C.S. Lewis Institute.
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Source: The Prayer Life of C.S.Lewis by James M. Houston, Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Fellow
Knowing and Doing, Summer 2006 C.S. Lewis Institute
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

C.S. Lewis on Prayer

“Several times in his writings, Lewis recites the Pensées of Pascal: “God instituted prayer in order to lend his creatures the dignity of causality.” Lewis’ comment is that God perhaps “invented both prayer and physical action for that purpose.” For God has granted us the dignity of both work and prayer together. So a proper attitude to both is to pray as we work responsibly with the gifts that God has given to us, as well as to go on praying when we can work no more. Indeed, prayer is a stronger force than causality, not a weaker form. For if it “works” at all, it does so unlimited by space and time. Prayer then, is not a direct action over nature, it is action in co-operation with God, so we are most in harmony with God’s provident action when we are in prayer before him.”

C.S.Lewis on “Hope”, from Mere Christianity

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CS Lewis on Hope

In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.

It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.

It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters.

Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

Most of us find it very difficult to want “Heaven” at all—except in so far as “Heaven” means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it.

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.

The Refrain
Help me, O Lord my God; save me for your mercy’s sake.

Mere Christianity, by C.S.Lewis

“Lose Your Life and You Will Save It” from C.S. Lewis author of Mere Christianity…Romans 6:5-8

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Lose Your Life and You Will Save It
Excerpted from Mere Christianity, Chapter 11, “The New Men”
C.S. Lewis
Topics: Christ-Likeness Self Knowledge Authenticity
Editor’s note:
In his wonderfully clear, entirely inimitable, and slyly witty way, C.S. Lewis calls us ever deeper into relationship with the Triune God in this excerpt that closes out Mere Christianity. Here he asks us to consider that we will only find our unique, irreplicable selves in Christ—and that the life we lose for his sake will only be the faint imitation of the “real, new” life we find in him.

—Renovaré Team Renovare

Excerpt from Mere Christianity
At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most “natural” men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.

But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away “blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all.

The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are
making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all
life from top to bottom.

Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will
ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

Excerpted from C.S. Lewis “Mere Christianity”

Romans 6:5-8

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.