What Is Prayer?

C.S. Lewis’s Letters to Malcolm is a tiny book packed with huge thoughts on the mysteries and workings of prayer. When I first picked it up, I thought, ‘Good. I should be able to finish this in a few days and keep trucking.’ Wrong. It took me a long time. (It’s Lewis on prayer. I don’t know why I thought it would be a cakewalk.)

Throughout the book Lewis makes these small, effortless (for him) statements that made me put the book down, take off my glasses, rub my forehead and stare out the window. I’d find myself thinking, ‘What in the world does that mean?’, spinning in the sundry implications connected to such simple statements. My head would begin racing (and hurting).

Lewis comes at prayer from a base of God’s immutable timelessness (unchanging and eternal, outside of time). So in order to agree with him on some of his thoughts on prayer, it may be necessary to agree with him on that aspect of God’s character (which I do).

What I appreciate most in Letters to Malcolm are Lewis’s insights, or what he calls “festoonings” about the Lord’s Prayer. I found the ways in which Lewis applies Christ’s instructions on prayer to his life to be very practical: What does it mean to pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” and, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”?

I’m a fan of Lewis, and I enjoyed his mind-stretching commentary on prayer. It is encouraging to me that a mind like C.S. Lewis finds prayer to be just as mysterious as I do.