Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Screwtape Letters: A snippet from Letter #27

My dear Wormwood,

But since your patient has contracted the terrible habit of obedience, he will probably continue such ‘crude’ prayers whatever you do. But you can worry him with the haunting suspicion that the practice is absurd and can have no objective result.Homer-Euro Don’t forget to use the ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ argument. If the thing he prays for doesn’t happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don’t work; if it does happen, he will, of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and ‘therefore it would have happened anyway’, and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.

Your affectionate uncle,

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (originally 1942; this edition: Harper Collins, 1996) 148.

1 comment:

  1. Christians have probably always debated on the real value of prayer. I am reminded that I have failed to read Philip Yancey's book titled Prayer though it's been on my shelf for quite a while now! I must do that :)

    Lewis is brilliant in this letter, to have Screwtape apply the ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ argument to prayer. This is exactly what happens when you hear Christians wrestling over the value of prayer. (By the way, the Homer Simpson Euro coin was really found by a Spanish merchant, click on the pic for the story.)

    Personally, I remain surprised that after my seminary education and life experience as a Christian that I could be taught something about prayer from a country song by Garth Brooks:

    Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
    Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
    That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
    Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

    Hate the "man upstairs" reference, but the song makes quite a compelling case why God seems to leave some of our prayers "unanswered."

    Prayer changes us. It has changed me. As I pray more I get to know God better. It's a very good thing!