Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lewis and Bonhoeffer on Intercessory Prayer

Recently I've been reading Lyle W. Dorsett's Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C. S. Lewis; it's a marvelous book. Concerning Lewis's prayer life, Dorsett says:

This busy writer, lecturer, and tutor gradually extended his prayer times to early in the morning and late at night, but his best time for intercessory praeyr was early morning. He sometimes prayed, weather permitting, during late afternoon strolls through the Magdalen College grounds. Lewis's private taxi driver, Clifford Morris, a devout evangelical Christian, told me that his frequent employer (Lewis never owned a car) was one of the most prayerful men he had ever known. He found Mr. Lewis to be warm and congenial, always treating him as an equal despite the wide disparity between their social classes and educational levels. This treatment surprised and blessed Morris, because other men--including Christians--were never so generous. Occasionally, Professor Lewis would get into the car and on the way to Cambridge say, "Morris, I'm sorry I can't talk for a quarter of an hour. I need to do my prayers."

Dorsett continues:

During busy times Lewis must have felt the prayers he promised to offer up for people were hardly a joy, but rather a burdensome duty. Nevertheless, as he told one of his correspondents, doing oone's prayers albeit "grudgingly," "tho' a nuisance need not depress us too much. It is an act of will (perhaps strongest where there is some disinclination to contend against) that God values, rather than the state of our emotions--the act what we give Him, the emotions what He gives us . . . ."

Dorsett's commentary on Lewis's prayer life reminds me of something Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, something to which Lewis would certainly agree:

The Christian needs to be alone during a definite period of each day for meditation on scripture...and for prayer...even during times of spiritual dryness and apathy. It matters little what form of prayer we adopt...or how many words we use. What matters is the faith which lays hold on God, knowing that He knows our needs before we even ask Him. That is what gives Christian prayer its boundless confidence and its joyous certainty. We simply make petitions and requests to One who has the heart of a Father. Of course, God's will must be the primary object of our prayers... and we must recognize prayer as an instrument of God's will. Therefore, we pray that God's will may be done throughout the world...and in intercessory prayer we bring people... from around the world...into the presence of God. Every intercession potentially draws the one for whom it is intended into a life-changing relationship with Christ. And in intercession I move into the other man's place. I enter his life...his guilt and distress. I am afflicted by his sins and his infirmity. If...as we pray...we recognize our own responsibility for the world's guilt and our own guilt in the death of Christ...then we can act upon and affect the lives of men and women throughout the world.

All of which is to ask that you remember June, me, and our family in your intercessions. If you wish us to pray for you, please let us know.


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