Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bookmarks -- Letters to Malcolm

Letters to Malcolm:  Chiefly on PrayerLetters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After spending several hours of my life reading about the subject, I have come to the conclusion that Prayer is something better discussed than taught. In fact, I will go so far as to say that most "instructional" books on the topic may do the reader more harm than good. They either box the reader in with formulas, often on only one type of prayer, so that when the prayer is successful (whatever that means) a cult member is created, and when unsuccessful (which usually means they didn't get something they didn't need), the reader is left frustrated and lost, thinking she/he didn't have enough faith or wasn't doing it right or is cursed by God.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer is the kind of book that could and should be read by people faith (even non-christians). I found it quite edifying to read this half-dialogue between two intelligent individuals which covered topics as diverse as whether God is changed by prayer, why pray when God knows our thoughts, and our mental images of God during prayer. Instead of directions and dogma, I found open conversation (Lewis does a good job of letting us know Malcolm's thoughts), that left me in an encouraging state of awe.

We get Lewis' trademark insights into human thought and foibles. On The Lord's Prayer, he writes, "It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good." I loved the humor and openness of his remarks on Communion: "The command, after all, was Take, eat; not Take, understand....All this is autobiography, not theology." And I found it comforting to read, "One of the purposes for which God instilled prayer may have been to bear witness that the course of events is not governed like a state but created like a work of art to which every being makes its contribution."

I probably learned more about Prayer from Letters to Malcolm than I have from dozens of books on the subject (some of the best of which have quoted it). I gave my personal reactions to a handful of passages because I'm sure not everyone will respond to this little volume as I have. Maybe that is the beauty of the book. I think it has something for everyone. Like Prayer.

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