Lewis on prayers and answers (post #1300)

I have only dabbled a tiny bit in C.S. Lewis, never gravitating to him as many other serious believers do — and this lack of acquaintance may be to my detriment.  So, I recently pulled off my shelves The Joyful Christian, a volume in which are compiled many writings on various topics.  I’ve sampled a couple dozen of these and would like to offer this section that I found as honest as it is helpful:

The New Testament contains embarrassing promises that what we pray for with faith we shall receive.  Mark 11:24 is the most staggering.  Whatever we ask for, believing that we’ll get it, we’ll get.  No question, it seems, of confining it to spiritual gifts; whatever we ask for. . . .  No question of getting either it or else something that is really far better for you, you’ll get precisely it. . . .

How is this astonishing promise to be reconciled (a) with the observed facts? and (b) with the prayer in Gethsemane, and (as a result of that prayer) the universally accepted view that we should ask everything with a reservation (“if it be Thy will”)?

As regards (a), no evasion is possible.  Every war, every famine or plague, almost every deathbed, is the monument to a petition that was not granted. . . .

But (b), though much less often mentioned, is surely an equal difficulty.  How is it possible at one and the same moment to have a perfect faith—an untroubled or unhesitating faith as St. James says (1:6)—that you will get what you ask and yet also prepare yourself submissively in advance for possible refusal?  If you envisage a refusal as possible, how can you have simultaneously a perfect confidence that what you ask will not be refused?  If you have that confidence, how can you take refusal into account at all?  . . .

It seems to me we must conclude that such promises about prayer with faith refer to a degree or kind of faith which most believers never experience.  A far inferior degree is, I hope, acceptable to God.  Even the kind that says, “Help Thou my unbelief” may make way for a miracle.  Again, the absence of such faith as insures the granting of the prayer is not even necessarily a sin; for Our Lord had no such assurance when he prayed in Gethsemane.  

– C.S. Lewis

2 thoughts on “Lewis on prayers and answers (post #1300)

  1. Steve 07/11/2015 / 6:45 am

    Mo 11:24 is indeed staggering. I’ve struggled with this level of trust and confidence in my prayer life. Lewis’s observations are helpful. Thx


    • Brian Casey 07/11/2015 / 6:12 pm

      They were to me, too. Not that I spend a lot of time pondering and struggling with that, but whenever it’s come to my attention, there is some cognitive/spiritual dissonance.

      On another level, examining the mid-level and maxi-Markan contexts might help further to understand what Jesus was saying. When I taught Mark recently, we spent much time in chapters 8-10, then the first 5 or 6 chapters, then hastened through the rest, so I didn’t ever really consider chapter 11 in the whole.


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