Letters 10-12
Letters 10-12 E-mail

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Letters 10-12

Letter 10

  1. We can infer from the beginning of Letter 10 that Malcolm had responded to the impassability of God mentioned in Letter 9 with Bible references in which God shows emotion.  ("Impassability of God" is the belief by some people that God is not capable of being influenced emotionally by anything in creation.) 

    Lewis suggests that the verses in which God exhibits wrath or grief are analogies or images.  The only alternative to analogy, according to Lewis, is theological abstraction.  What is the danger of abstraction?




  2. What happens when prayer is seen only as a "cause"?



  3. Likening prayer to a romantic suitor, how does Lewis contrast "getting what we want" with "being heard"?  Which would be more satisfying to you personally?



  4. Lewis explains how human plans often have unintended by-products.  E.g. Crumbs for the birds become food for rats.  Do you agree with his contention that on the divine level there are only "plans" and no "by-products"?



  5. What did Lewis think of a "managerial God"?



  6. Lewis writes, "One of the purposes for which God instituted 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 ..."  Try to think of yourself as note in God's symphony or a word in God's poem.  How does it affect the way you see yourself?  The way you see others?




    Letter 11

    Mark 11:24 -- Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  (NIV)

    James 1:6 -- But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  (NIV)

  7. With what two things does Lewis have trouble reconciling Mark 11:24?



  8. Why did Lewis advise against dismissing the harder "theological difficulties"? What "theological difficulties" have you encountered that you wish you could ignore?



  9. What danger did Lewis see in teaching verses like Mark 11:24 to children or pagans (i.e. those who haven't placed their faith in Jesus Christ)?



  10. How does Lewis make the distinction between "friend," "servant," and "suitor" relevant to his interpretation of Mark 11:24? See also John 15:15.



  11. Have you struggled with promises in the Bible that fly in the face of reality?  




    Letter 12

  12. What type of prayers did Lewis consider to be lower than his "foothills" level praying? What pros and cons do you see in repeating prayers learned in childhood?



  13. Why does Lewis say he will never attempt a book on prayer? Does Letters to Malcolm offer discussion or instruction or both?



  14. What observations does Lewis make about the mystics whom he considered to occupy a higher level of prayer?



  15. How does the metaphor of a sea voyage develop Lewis's argument?



  16. Do you find it easier to pray for yourself or others? What two reasons did Lewis offer as explanation for the prayer he found easier?



  17. How did Lewis manage his ever-expanding prayer list?



 

Notes:

Aorist [Ltr 11]: a verb tense indicating that the action is completed

Imitation of Christ [Ltr 12]: book by Thomas `a Kempis (1380-1471) a monk.  According to Richard Foster, The Imitation ranks second only to the Bible in its impact on the worldwide Christian community.

Plotinus (205-270) [Ltr 12]: ancient Greek philosopher and father of neoplatonism.

Lady Julian - Julian of Norwich (1343-1413) [Ltr 12]: English mystic who lived as a Benedictine nun and wrote Revelations of Divine Love.  Considered the first great female writer in the English language.

St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) [Ltr 12]: a Carmelite monk who met and was influenced by Teresa of Avila.  He wrote The Dark Night of the Soul, which describes how God can work through sorrow and darkness to produce spiritual growth.

© 2007 Allyson Wieland