C.S. Lewis thought deeply and carefully about prayer and many of the questions he raises have concerned Christians through the ages. The following summary includes not only what Lewis said about prayer, but also what others gleaned and reported that he said about prayer. I begin with quotes or comments from his own writings and then move on to other authors.

  1. [1955, 1958, 1959, 1960]. The world’s last night: And other essays. NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. [From articles and essays published elsewhere.] Pp. 3-11.

Chapter one is on “The efficacy of prayer,” which was later published in Fern-seed and Elephants (and other essays on Christianity), edited by Walter Hooper, Collins Fount Paperbacks (1975:96-103). It was first published in Atlantic Monthly, January, 1959. The page numbers that follow are from the 1975 version.

By “efficacy” Lewis is referring to prayer producing a desired or intended result. Lewis starts with a story of a feeling that one day he had to go a barbershop and when he arrived the owner said “Oh, I was praying you might come today.” Answer to prayer or a coincidence? He relates another story of a woman (later his wife) whose bones were riddled with the effects of cancer. She was given a few months to live but when a “good man laid his hands on her and prayed” she not only survived, but the cancer was gone. These are not rigorous empirical proof that prayer “works,” but are examples of prayer from experience. As he says, “The essence of a request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted” (p.97).

Lewis notes that, although there are passages in the NT that seem to promise the granting of our prayers, this cannot be what they mean. For example, Christ himself prayed three times that the cup of suffering (his death) would be eliminated, but it was not. “After that the idea that prayer is recommended to us as a sort of infallible gimmick may be dismissed” (p. 98).

Real prayer is not demonstrable in terms of experiments (as in praying for patients in one hospital and not the other) because “empirical proof and disproof are…unobtainable” (p.99). The same doubt that hangs on our asking fellow men or women to do something also hangs on God—“whatever we get we might have been going to get anyway” (p.100). God knows what is best and we can’t tabulate successes and failures of prayer.

Personal prayer involves “petitions,” asking for things, and a part of it is confession and penitence—what God does is learned from who he is. He could do anything in an instance without our help or prayers but he allows us to “cooperate in the execution of his will” (p. 101). He “seems to do nothing of himself which he can possibly delegate to his creatures,” despite how slow and poorly we do them.

The advice Lewis offers us is analogical and parabolic: “The reality is doubtless not comprehensible by our facilities…Prayer is not a machine. It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God” (102). When prayers are answered we should not draw conclusions to our advantage because “If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle” {103).

  1. Letters to Malcolm: chiefly on prayer. NY: Harcourt, Brace & World; 1964 by Geoffrey Bles. Fontana Books 1966; Fount Paperbacks 1977.

There are 21 letters to “Malcolm” that begin with the subject of private (not corporate) prayer. Lewis reminds us that the charge to Peter was to feed His sheep, not to experiment with rats or teach dogs new tricks (5). He suggests that prayers without words are best (11) and that the relationship between us and God should be private and intimate (13). Although he allows for the possibility of prayers for the dead he sees it as a “great danger” (15); also that the place or position we pray in is not the issue as much as praying with discipline.

“Lead us not into temptation” is a petition to make our paths straight and that we be spared, when possible, from disasters (28). Some things we don’t pray about: “We don’t pray about eclipses” (38). “In every Church, in every institution, there is something which sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence” (43). Lewis often makes the point in his writings that “God and His acts are not in time. Intercourse between God and man occurs at particular movements for the man, but not for God” (48). He concludes that the images we have are more important and more to be trusted than theological abstractions because the latter is “itself a tissue of analogies: a continual modelling of spiritual reality in legal or chemical or mechanical terms” (52).

“There is always hope if we keep an unsolved problem fairly in view; there’s none if we pretend it’s not there” (59). God listens to our prayers and takes them into account (61), even if he does not answer them like we wish. Lewis points out that the increased number of people that we need to pray for is one of the burdens of old age! (66) “The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool” (98). “Our emotional reactions to our own behaviour are of limited ethical significance” (99).

See (108) for comment on purgatory. “If we were perfected, prayer would not be a duty, it would be a delight. Some day, please God, it will be” (114). “I must say my prayers today whether I feel devout or not; but that is only as I must learn my grammar if I am ever to read the poets” (115). There are many rich moments in prayer to God but “It is no good angling for rich moments. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard” (116).


  1. 1967. Christian reflections. Edited by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

In “Petitionary prayer: A problem without an answer” (142-151), Lewis returns to what some see as the problem because many prayers are not answered. He observes: “That wisdom [of God] must sometimes refuse what ignorance may quite innocently ask seems to be self-evident” (142). Lewis claims that the Lord’s example “make all our petitionary prayers in this conditional form” (143). We should be glad that certain of our past prayers have not been answered.

Sometimes the granting of a prayer on someone’s behalf is because of the faith of another person, as with the Centurion’s slave (Mat 8.13) or the Canaanite child (Mat 15.28). Although Peter seems to lose his faith and begin to sink in the waves (Mat 14.31), he prepared himself to be in God’s hands whether he lived or drowned.

Jesus uses hyperbole (about throwing a mountain into the sea) and yet “a sane man does not use hyperbole to mean nothing” (146). Jesus may not have meant his words literally but they did imply something mighty.

There are occasions when two or three people pray, or the whole church, and there is refusal. And prayers “in His name” are not formulaic, but suggestive of the spirit in which we must pray. And, further, we should not be hesitant to pray for miracles: “we ought all of us to be ashamed of not performing miracles and that we do not feel this shame enough” (150).

  1. God in the dock: Essays on theology and ethics. Edited by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co. Chapter 11.

“Work and prayer” first appeared in The Coventry Evening Telegraph (28 May 1945). In this short piece, Lewis discusses two forms of prayer: 1) the low form, simply asking God for something; and 2) the high form, which is worshiping God in prayer. Some have said that the former is an inferior form of prayer, but Lewis does not think so. It is the kind we use to ask God for our daily bread and to pray for the sick. “He made his own plan or plot of history such that it admits a certain amount of free play and can be modified in response to our prayers” (106). We are free to do as much harm to ourselves as we wish, but God’s wishes are not like that: “God has left Himself a discretionary power” such that when prayer “works” it is in unlimited space and time (107).

“Work and prayer” is also published in: First and second things: Essays on theology and ethics. 1985, edited by Walter Hooper. London: Collins [Fount Paperbacks]. Geoffrey Bles in turn first published the book in Undeceptions, London 1971.

  1. The joyful Christian: 127 readings from C.S. Lewis. Compiled by William Griffin, Macmillan Publishing Co. NY: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.

There are a number of readings that are related to prayer. Note, for example: 1) “Ready-made Prayers” (85), in which Lewis comments that “prayer without words is the best—if one can really achieve it” (85). Words are secondary because they can harden into a formula and repetition. But ready-made prayers keep us in touch with sound doctrine, remind us of what we should pray for and provide us with the ceremonial.

2) In “Festooning ready-made prayers” Lewis refers to praying in a way that “does not obliterate the plain, public sense of the petition about are merely hung on it,” such as with “Thy kingdom come” (86). “God shows us a new facet of the glory, and we refuse to look at it because we’re still looking for the old one” (88);

3) In “When and where to pray,” Lewis remarks that bedtime is the worst time and that his preference is early morning, or even on a back street “where one can pace up and down” (89). The body ought to pray as well as the soul, but sometimes we can’t kneel. “A concentrated mind and a sitting body make for better prayer than a kneeling body and a mind half asleep” (90);

4) “The Moment of Prayer”: “The talk of ‘meeting ‘ is no doubt, anthropomorphic; as if God and I could be face to face like two fellow creatures, when in reality He is above me and within me and below me and all about me” (91). This anthropomorphic view “even at its crudest” does the believers “no harm” (92);

5) The “Mechanics of Meditation” depends on one’s visual imagination and our awakening to God as he watches us;

6) “Answered Prayers” reminds us that there is more written about contemplative prayer and worship than about prayer with faith;

7) In “Prayer of Praise,” God demands prayer as something satisfactory to him but also as a lawgiver and as our sacrifice. According to Lewis, “The delight [of praise] is incomplete until it is expressed” (119) and “In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him” (120). Note how Screwtape advises Wormwood “to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether” (146) and “Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment” (147).

Bell, James Stuart, Compiler, with Anthony Palmer Dawson. 2004. From the Library of C.S. Lewis: Selections from Writers who Influenced his Spiritual Journey. Colorado Springs, CO: A Shaw Book, Published by Waterbrook Press.

Chapter 10 quotes a number of people:

In “Inexpressible Sweetness” (Prayer and Contemplation) note the following by Samuel Johnson: Dr. Johnson’s Prayers (2x) on contrition and repentance, and also mercy: “Lord enable me, by your Grace, to redeem the time which I have spent in Sloth, Vanity, and wickedness; to make use of your Gifts to the honor of your Name” (184);

Martin Luther, Table Talk: “Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a godly Christian’s weapon” (180);

Saint Bernard of Clair Vaux, On Loving God: “for prayer is freer in the night and purer too” (181)];

Richard Baxter (2x), The Saint’s Everlasting Rest: “We are fled so far from superstitious solitude, that we have even castoff the solitude of contemplative devotion” (182)]

Brother Lawrence, The Practice and Presence of God (2x): “And how can we have him often in our thoughts, unless by a holy habit of thought which we should form?” (183);

Walter Hilton, The Ladder of Perfection: “…the fire of love is not itself a physical sensation. It lives only in the spiritual desires of the soul” (185);

Coventry Patmore, The Rod, the Root, and the Flower: “The more extravagant and audacious your demands the more pleasing to God will be your prayer; for his joy is in giving; but he cannot give that for which you have not acquired a capacity; and desire is capacity” (189);

Francis Bacon, The Moral and Historical Works: “But little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extends; for a crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal” (187);

Richard Rolle, Selected Works: “What is the grace of contemplation but the beginning of joy?” (190);

Baron Friedrich von Hugel: “The first and central act of religion is adoration, sense of God.” (192), Man of God; and George MacDonald, Creation in Christ: “To bring His child to His knee, God withholds that man may ask” (195).

Bramlett, Perry C. 1996. C.S. Lewis: Life at the Center. Peak Road, an imprint of Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc.

Bramlett quotes Lewis: “It’s So Much Easier to Pray for a Bore than It Is to Go See Him,” and surveys Lewis’s writings to find out what he had to say about prayer. He notes the consistent prayer times of Lewis and how he would “festoon” the prayers with his own additional “grace notes” (20).

“Because literature about Lewis and prayer and scripture and friends is limited, I wrote this book for two reasons: (1) to “fill a gap” in C.S. Lewis studies for the general reader and non-Lewis specialist, whether lay-person or minster, and (2) to answer questions about his spiritual life. It is my am to present him as a wonderful example for the Christian who is serious about his or her own spiritual pilgrimage” (vi).

“Perry C. Bramlett is the founder of “C.S. Lewis for the Local Church,” an interstate teaching ministry on the life, works and influence of Lewis. Bramlett is the only person in the United States who teaches Lewis to churches and groups on a regular basis.” (From the back cover)

Dorsett, Lyle W. 2004. Seeking the secret place: The spiritual formation of C.S. Lewis. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

“The portions of letters, the notations from books and the gleanings from memories of Lewis’s associates, I trust, will reveal nothing that should remain in sacred silence like a person’s confession to a pastor or priest. Instead the following pages are offered in the spirit that C.S. Lewis said he was in while preparing his book on the four loves: ‘Pray for me that God grant me to say things helpful to salvation or at least not harmful’” (28).

In Chapter 2 of his book, Dorsett notes that for Lewis prayer was a “Sustained and Regular Habit.” Dorsett records that Lewis told Sheldon Vanauken in a letter in 1951 to “be busy learning to pray” (30). After many years Lewis concluded that some saints had special gifts and were close enough to God that some “advanced pupils” could ask them in prayers of faith (36). He did not consider himself one of them. “His correspondence reveals that the numbers of people he prayed for grew as his publications poured from the presses and reached an ever-widening audience” (41). He prayed for a large number of people and humbly asked prayer for himself. As Lewis noted, God could convert all the heathens without missionaries (46) but instituted prayer to lend his creatures “the dignity of causality” (46). Lewis noted that people praise the most what they value the most.

I [Karl] have read many books about C.S. Lewis. However, in my opinion, none gives a more intimate and knowledgeable account of Lewis’s life and thoughts than Dorsett’s Seeking the secret place.

Lyle W. Dorsett is professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton College and the former director of the Wade Center at Wheaton.

Edwards, Bruce L., ed. 2007. C.S. Lewis: Life, works and legacy. Volume 3: Apologist, philosopher, & theological. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Bruce Edwards, who died in 2015, was a professor of English and Africana Studies and Associate Vice Provost for Academic Technology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He published extensively on Lewis and edited a four volume set on C.S. Lewis’s life, works and legacy. Volume three contains two main contributions on prayer:

Chapter 9 is by Marjorie Lamp Mead and is calledLetters to Malcolm: C.S. Lewis on Prayer.” Mead is Associate Director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.

Mead notes that Lewis’s format for Malcolm allowed him to pass from the “merely theoretical into the actual and practical” (209). Lewis struggled to write his book on prayer and Mead examines an earlier manuscript on the subject that Lewis discarded. His correspondence with Fr Don Giovanni expressed his concerns and asked for prayer. ”His discarded manuscript talks of the praise that should be overwhelming delight in our interaction with God. “ Lewis maintained that good intentions are all we can and should contribute in our prayers. The rest remains in God’s hands” (213)

His emphasis on praise highlighted his believe that there should be a difference between enjoyment and contemplation and that adoration was important.“ and “he observes three significant aspects of human interaction (enjoyment, request, and confession), and accordingly notes that our conversation on prayer with God reflects the same three elements (adoration, petition and penitence)” (215).

Letters to Malcolm was published two months after Lewis died and the most significant point in it was “the relational nature of prayer” (217), which was “private and intimate.” As others have noted, Lewis desired that each of us should “be busy learning to pray” (222)

Mead concludes her chapter by outlining what a number of reviewers said about the book—generally positive except for Tolkien, who found parts of the book “distressing” (226). Mead notes that Paul Ford has a bibliography that includes references to prayer in works by Lewis. She also has an appendix that briefly describes Lewis’s essays on prayer.

Chapter 10, “An Apologist’s Evening Prayer: Reflecting on C.S. Lewis’s Reflections on the Psalms” is by Donald T. Williams. It is a chapter by chapter review and critique of Lewis’s work on Psalms. Prayer is mentioned only indirectly, for example, “[God] did not want them to worship him for the sake of eternal happiness but for what he is” (242). The desire for God comes first.

Glaspey, Terry W. 1996. The spiritual legacy of C.S. Lewis. Nashville TN: Cumberland House Publishing.

“Lewis used both written and spontaneous prayers” (133). Well thought out prayers contain theological truths that we call to remembrance and confess, but “how we pray is not as important as our attitude in prayer” (133). Lewis knew that prayer “was a serious activity” and that God took seriously even our small prayers.

Terry Glaspey is an editor and author of a number of books. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Harries, Richard. 1987. C.S. Lewis: The man and his God. London: Fount. Ch. 7, “C.S. Lewis and prayer.”

Harries notes that Lewis prayed about his conversion, as well as about the last book he wrote, shortly before he died (63). Lewis believed that we should start our prayers by “putting ourselves in the presence of God” and he tried to think what that would mean on earth (64). It relates to what we see, feel and think and comes out of Lewis’s understanding of sensory experiences. Lewis really believed that prayer made a difference when he had to work through his own grief (his wife’s death) with prayer.

Hurd, Dr Crystal. 2014. Thirty days with C.S. Lewis: A women’s devotional. Amazon Digital Services. [On my Kindle]

Day 29 admonishes the reader to “pray without ceasing.”

Kreeft, Peter. ed. 1994. The shadowlands of C.S. Lewis: The man behind the movie. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

In his collection of readings, Kreeft includes two poems by Lewis dealing with prayer: 1) “Footnote to All Prayers” (202), which ends with “Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in Thy great unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.” and 2) “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer,” which ends: “Oh thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free. Lord of the narrow gate and needle’s eye, take from me all my trumpery lest I die.” (203) According to Kreeft, “The two poems refute the popular piece of bigotry that assumes that orthodox Christians are bigoted, that if you believe the Christian dogma you must be ‘dogmatic.’”

Lindskoog, Kathryn Ann. 1973. C.S. Lewis: Mere Christian. Foreword by Dr. Clyde S. Kilby. Glendale, CA: Regal Books Division, G/L Publications.

Lindskoog divides chapter 9, on prayer (133-149), into the theory of prayer on the one hand, and the practice of it on the other. The “theory” involves thinking about prayer (it requires concentration), a motivation to pray (it is His will), asking if prayer “works” (but not because of emotional intensity), petitionary prayer (not ignoring unsolved problems, and how “God speaks” (God speaks to God as the Holy Spirit allows us to pray). The “practice” of prayer refers to common items, like “when, where and how” (early morning and with solitude), which words (written forms do well), festooning, attitudes about needs and importance of items, and duty or delight (a knowledge that someday prayer will not be a burden).

Macdonald, Michael H. and Andrew A. Tadie. eds. 1989. G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis: The riddle of joy. With a Foreword by Janet Blumberg Knedlik. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co.

A chapter, “The Prayer Life of C.S. Lewis” by James M. Houston (69-86), retired professor of Spiritual Theology at the University of British Colombia, contains recollections by a man who knew Lewis well from 1946-1953. Houston is the co-founder of the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington, D.C.

He recalls Lewis as “stout, in an old rumpled brown tweed jacket and brown shoes, pipe in mouth, and he looked like an Oxford farmer” (69). The issues Lewis faced in prayer are dealt with in his last work, Letters to Malcolm, which was published posthumously. Houston describes six traits of Lewis’s prayer life: 1) realism: “he was dead scared of sentimentalism”; 2) practicality: the more we are in tune with God’s presence, the “less fuss we need to make about how vocal and articulate we are….” (73); 3) a simple, natural unstructured attitude (“And since most of one’s existence is usually pretty dull and routine stuff, one’s prayers are not exceptional either,” (75)) and “[l]ike friendship with a dear friend…prayer is never forced nor irksome. It grows as the relationship grows” (76); 4) it is supplicatory for others; 5) it is friendship; and 6) it is matured by suffering. “These then are the things Lewis teaches us from his own prayer life. The profound need of realism, of humility, of exposing our own vulnerability and unreality as we seek God in prayer” (85).

Martindale, Wayne, Jerry Root and Linda Washington. 2010. The soul of C.S. Lewis: A meditative journey through twenty-six of his best-loved writings. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

They include quotations from Lewis’s Letters, God in the Dock (“Praying for particular things always seems to me like advising God how to run the world. Wouldn’t it be wiser to assume that He knows best” (484); Prayer Answers (glad that certain prayers are not answered); The World’s Last Night (“The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted” (485); Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on prayers: prayer presupposes an adaption between freedom in prayer and the creative act of God (486-7); Other quotes are on: Communion with God; Confession; Duty and Petition. Aspects of prayer include timing and invoking personal habits.

Purtill, Richard L. 2004 [1981]. C.S. Lewis’s case for the Christian faith. San Francisco: Harper&Row.

Richard Purtill (1931-2016) was professor of philosophy at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington and the author of many books. Chapter 9 of his book is called “The Problems of Prayer” (146-159) can be summarized in one of his quotes of Lewis: “Simply to say prayers is not to pray: otherwise a team of properly trained parrots could serve as well as men for our experiment” (147, quoting Lewis in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays).

Purtill quotes Lewis extensively, reviewing his answers to questions about prayer and giving insight into Lewis’s own prayers. He concludes “We pray better if we understand what we are doing. Lewis helped us understand. Those who do not pray can, with Lewis’ help, at least see the point of prayer. Those of us who do pray will pray better for having read Lewis” (159).

Root, Jerry, Mark Neal and Stephen A. Beebe. 2015. The surprising imagination of C.S. Lewis. Abington Press.

Chapter 3, “The smell of deity: Satisfied imagination in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer,” is a reminder that our culture has lured us to sleep and we cannot imagine what God is doing or has in store for us. “Thus, a final corrective works as a much-needed way to counteract a world in which everything is increasingly fast–paced, where there is no time for reflection or quiet, or contemplation: where the pace of life and the use of technologies erode real relationship while promising connectivity; where there is no time or, worse yet, not inclination, for recognizing how simple pleasures ‘like prayer’ can bring clarity to our understanding of God” (44).

Schakel, Peter J. 2008. Is your Lord large enough? How C.S. Lewis expands our view of God. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Dr. Peter Schakel has taught at Hope College in Michigan since 1969. Since 1984 he has been the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Professor of English. He has written extensively on Lewis and in this 2008 book he has two chapters that deal with prayer: chapter 3, “The Meaning of Prayer” and chapter 4, What can we pray for?

According to Schakel, “The published index to Lewis’s works has eleven double-columned pages of references to prayer in Lewis’s works, second only to sixteen pages of references to God” (31). Schakel divides Lewis’s comments on prayer into two questions: 1) Why do you pray? And 2) What are you seeking to attain through praying? His book includes questions for reflection at the end of each chapter.

In prayer (which Lewis does not define), he prays to enter into the presence of God—to commune with Him. Prayer requires discipline in preparation and a goal to know what we are praying about or for. Attitudes of reflection, contemplation and seriousness are keys to praying.

The matter of petitionary prayers for others is a lower form than prayers of adoration, praise, confession and penitence (4). Schakel quotes James 5:13-16, pointing out that we pray when we are in “trouble,” as well as at other times. We can ask for what we feel is necessary, given the circumstances, but always with the condition that we desire “God’s will.” We pray in faith, not to see if it “works.”

Vaus, Will. 2004. Mere theology: A guide to the thought of C.S. Lewis. InterVarsity Press.

Chapter 20 is on “Prayer,” a follow up of Chapter 19 on “The Church,” in which he examines what Lewis had to say in Letters to Malcolm on corporate prayer.

It doesn’t matter to Lewis if one makes up one’s own prayers or if they are “ready-made.” Lewis does maintain, however, “that all Christians should be agreed about praying with the saints” (177). Our prayers are added to those of the saints. Lewis is less certain about praying for the dead but believes it is inevitable “since most of the people he loves best are dead” (177). Vaus goes over Lewis’s comments o “when and where to pray” (don’t leave it until the end of the day), “why and what to pray about” (what is on our minds), and “festooning the Lord’s prayer” (we are dressing up like Christ). Penitential prayer (but not “permanently horrified [by our] perception of our sin”), petitionary prayer (“He takes our petitions as well as our sins into account”), intercessory prayer (we are under orders to pray for our enemies) and the prayer of faith are all mentioned by Vaus. He also returns to Lewis’s “difficulties in prayer” (talking to oneself, God hearing all the prayers of everyone at once, during bereavement) and mental images that are used in prayer. We are to pray with adoration and thanksgiving and it is our duty to pray.

Vaus, Will. 2011. Speaking of Jack: C.S. Lewis discussion guide. Hamden, CT: Winged Lion Press.

In Vaus’s discussion on Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, he notes that Lewis had started to write a book on prayer as early as 1953, but had given it up. Ten years later he wrote the book in two months, a book on private prayer. “Malcolm” was not a real person—he was part of Lewis’s imagination and the book was the last that Lewis wrote. Lewis astutely notes that although prayer can be painful, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it (208).

Vermilye, Alan. 2015. The Screwtape Letters Study Guide: A Bible Study on the C.S. Lewis Book the Screwtape Letters. Brown Chair Books. (Kindle edition available from CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.)

Letter 4 by Lewis to Screwtape is on prayer or, as Vermilye puts it, “Sincere Prayer,” where Screwtape instructs Wormwood “that he should keep his patient from seriously intending to pray at all. If that fails, Wormwood should misdirect the focus of the Patient’s prayers so that they are only about himself or an object rather than another person” (27). A Lewis quote from Letter 4: “If he ever consciously directs his prayer ‘Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be’, our situation is, for the moment desperate” (111, quoting Lewis, p. 18).

Williams, Thomas M. 2005. The heart of the Chronicles of Narnia: Knowing God here by finding Him there. Nashville: W Publishing Group.

Chapter 10, “Asking Aslan: The puzzle of prayer,” concludes with an important principle: “Prayer is an aid in aligning your will with his” (114). We often pray for things that would be to our detriment if answered. Both Jesus and Paul prayed to God for relief from suffering, but their prayers were not answered directly—instead God gave them strength to meet the problem.

We cannot pray that God will overcome his own laws of nature “because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God” (112, a quote from Lewis). We also cannot condition our prayers, suggesting that if God does A, then we will do B. God is not the “ultimate vending machine” (110) who gives us what we choose. And who knows what spiritual (but invisible) forces may be attempting to inhibit God’s answers—our prayers may be a matter of timing.

Willis, John Randolph. 1983. Pleasures forevermore: The theology of C.S. Lewis. Chicago: Loyola University Press.

This is the first book about Lewis written by a Roman Catholic priest and, for the author, Pope John Paul II reminds him of Lewis.

Chapter 7, on “Scripture and prayer,” is a fine overview and condensation of Lewis’s views on both, with a bit of Roman Catholic theology interspersed. Recounted, is how God reveals himself to the pray-er, how we often miss the blessings of God in prayer because we are on the lookout for some other blessing and how we are taught to pray without ceasing. But our prayers may require a “reformation of character” (95) in addition to worship, adoration and repentance.