Letters 7-9
Letters 7-9 E-mail

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Letters 7-9

Letter 7   (This is a hard chapter.  Don't get stuck here.)

  1. Who else did not receive the petition he requested of God?

  2. What arguments does Lewis make in support of petitionary prayer (i.e. asking God for something)?

  3. What is a common characteristic of nearly all the things we pray about?

  4. How might a measure of predictability in the world be part of God's grace?

    Letter 8

  5. At the beginning of the letter Lewis refers to his own time of trouble (losing his wife to cancer three years earlier). He talks about the attempts at consolation made by some people and the effect their words had on him. Do you agree? Disagree?

  6. How does Lewis view anxieties?

  7. What does Lewis mean by the statement, "We are Christians, not Stoics"?

  8. List the common elements in our human sufferings that also appear in Christ's passion.

  9. Lewis poses a stunning rhetorical question toward the end of this letter: "Is it that God Himself cannot be Man unless God seems to vanish at His greatest need?" What thoughts or emotions does this stir up within you?

  10. Would this letter comfort you if you received it during a difficult time? Why or why not?

    Letter 9  (another deep letter)

  11. Which type of problems about prayer occurs when a person is praying for dear life?

  12. What does Lewis mean by saying our prayers are heard before we make them? Consider Isaiah 65:24 and Matthew 6:8.

  13. How does the understanding of God's character enter into the cause and effect of prayer?

  14. How does Lewis reconcile the problem of causality?


Determinism [Ltr 7]: the belief that a human being's actions are the result of antecedent factors rather than the exercise of free will.  Naturalistic determinists (e.g. Thomas Hobbes; B.F. Skinner) say a person's behavior can be fully explained by natural causes.  Theistic determinists (e.g. Martin Luther; Jonathan Edwards) trace a person's actions back to God's sovereign hand.  The opposite is indeterminism, which holds that there are no causes for a person's actions.  Each man or woman determines his/her own behavior.  (e.g. William James; Charles Peirce)  C.S. Lewis was a self-determinist.  While recognizing that heredity and environment influence one's behavior, self-determinists deny that such factors are the determining causes.

"the dark night of the soul" [Ltr 8]:  title of a book by John of the Cross (1542-1591).  It also refers to a seemingly common experience of spiritual and contemplative writers.  Their spiritual life begins with excitement as they experience God's love and power.  Then comes a period when it is gone.  God, who was once near, now seems distant.  Prayer and church seem boring, but the person persists out of discipline.  The "dark night" experience often results in growth and purification.  When the person doesn't feel God's presence, he or she must operate on faith, trusting that God is near even though the feeling is gone. 

Pelagianism [Ltr 9]: a teaching by British monk, Pelagius (360-420), which emphasizes an individual's ability to take the initial steps toward salvation by his/her own efforts, without intervention of divine grace.  Sharply opposed by Augustinianism, which emphasizes the absolute necessity of God's grace for man's salvation.

Impassability of God [Ltr 9]: the belief that God is not susceptible of being influenced emotionally by anything in creation. 

From the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, Baker Book House, 1984.  These and other short definitions are provided as a convenience.   Due to brevity, the concept may not be accurately represented. 

© 2007 Allyson Wieland