Update & C.S. Lewis on Prayer (2)

Update: Three weeks of chemo-proton treatments are in! Docs are amazed at how well I’m doing and even my blood counts continue to strengthen. I’m experiencing fatigue, however, which cuts into my desire and ability to do things. I also have a cough dogging me the whole time. Seems to be connected to both pollen counts here and the proton aggravation of my windpipe. I’ll see a pulmonologist on Tuesday. Thanks for praying.

Prayer Foundation: How Prayer Works in Our World Today

This ‘Prayer Foundation’ is my summary of C.S. Lewis’ argument in the book, How To Pray. I’ve noted Lewis quotes in italics, and when I made a specific note, I used italics and my initials.

This is a lengthy post so take it on when you have time for some ‘rumination.’ It’s not easy reading. I hope I’ve represented C.S. Lewis’ thoughts more than less accurately. I share this hoping these thoughts take us each deeper into the essence of this great privilege we have today!

C.S. Lewis starts his argument with a concept he’s heard often in ‘secularizing England’ in his day:

The Argument Against Prayer

The thing you ask for is either good for you and for the world in general, or it’s not. If it is good, then a good and wise God will do it anyway if you pray or not. If it’s not good, then He won’t do it whether you pray or not. In either case your prayer does not make a difference. (pg 17)

Further Argument Against Prayer:  ‘Requesting prayer’ (supplication, intercession) is essentially a human being informing God His ruling of the world is not okay with them but needs to change. If no change was needed in the mind of someone, no prayer would be offered. Prayer is therefore an arrogant act. Who are we as a weak, mortal humans to tell the God of the Universe things need to change?

DG Note: My example applied to this thinking: I get cancer and what do I do? I start to ask that my situation be changed. This is arrogant on my part because in God’s universe I somehow got cancer and He’s in charge. This is how He ordered it. Who am I to ask that He change my health situation? Is having cancer good or not? If it’s good, I’ll live with it and perhaps die with it (we all die of something anyway). If it’s bad, then God will take it away from me in some way – either miraculously, through medical means or natural means. This may be my ‘time’ and He’ll use it for my passing into eternity. So actually there is no need for prayer for my health situation.

DG Note: It seems to me, this argument against prayer ends up creating fatalism. Whatever He wills, will be. We cannot influence God in any way. We can rest assured He’s in sovereign control, and will do what He wants. Our responsibility is to accept everything that happens to us. We can’t know God with any certainty, if there is one, so we can’t influence Him either. What do you think?

The C.S. Lewis ‘BUT’ to the Above Arguments . . .

BUT, is this true? Is this view reality? Logically it makes sense . . . but only partially. We need to ask the question, is this the way God has fashioned the Universe? C.S. Lewis says, ‘No. There’s more to the picture than the argument above.”

First, the argument against prayer destroys ‘creature causality’ in the world. God is not the only one who acts as He wills. We also have a free will to act. That means we can also affect change – God is not the only ‘change’ agent. He’s given us a free will to act. Our reality is that action ‘A’ (cause) creates ‘B’ (effect/result/change).

As C.S. Lewis states, “For example: Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll become clean without washing them. If He doesn’t, they’ll remain dirty however much soap you use. Why ask for salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything?” (18)

However we know we can act and that our actions produce results. And we do change the order of things by acting. So we must conclude, God has not chosen to write the whole of history with His own hand. We are not robots, programmed to do what the creator wants. He has chosen to write much of history with us. And just as our actions influence the course of events going forward, so He also allows our prayers to influence that course as well.

Pascal: “God instituted prayer in order to allow His creatures the dignity of causality.”

C.S. Lewis addition to Pascal: God instituted both human actions and prayer to allow His creatures the dignity of causality.

Created in His image, God gave us mortal humans the dignity of being able to contribute (positively and negatively) to the course of events in two different ways, through (1) work and (2) prayer:

  • He made the matter of the universe such that we can (within limits) do things to it for good or bad, which is our WORK!
  • He made His own part, plan and plot of history in such a way that there is a certain amount of ‘free play’ in it rather than fatalism and ‘robotism.’ Therefore world history, in which our personal lives play a role, is able to be modified in response to our requests — which is our PRAYER!

“Both of these are alike in this way: in both work and prayer, we try to produce a state of affairs in which God has not (or at any rate, not yet) seen fit to provide ‘on His own.’ (20)

But there is an important difference between work and prayer as well.

  • The causality of work is divinely guaranteed. We work, and as a result there are guaranteed changes for good or bad. If we pull out a weed from a field, there is one less weed in it. (good) If we buy a meal for someone, they are encouraged and fed. (good) If we pollute drinking water, people take in toxins which lead to disease. (bad) If we scam someone, we steal their resources. (bad)

C.S. Lewis’ point is, there is an unbreakable bond between cause and effect, so the causality of work is very ruthless. “By it we are free to do ourselves (and others) as much harm as we please.” (21)

Here’s what the Apostle Paul said about this principle, this unbreakable connection, 2000 years before in Galatians 6:7, “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest.” (MSG)

‘Ruthlessness’ is this essence because there is no way to change an immediate result of an action or ensuing results from that action. After being committed, those actions are fixed in the past.

DG. Note: This is why living according to the Scriptures and the ‘law of Christ’ is so relevant, helpful, and protective for an individual. The closer we walk in obedience to the dictates of the Bible and the leadings of the Holy Spirit, the fewer ‘negative and ruthless’ results we will experience in our lives.

(An Example of how Scriptures helps: The Wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs gives us many ‘cause-effect’ actions either for good or bad when applied.)

DG note regarding negative results: Ruthless causality creates the issue of ‘regrets.’ The longer perspective I have on my life, the more the consequences of former positive and negative actions either lighten or bear heavier on my spirit. The positive results lead to encouragement and satisfaction. The negative results lead to regret. It seems that forgiveness from God and others creates the only environment for living well with regret. Without processing the negative past and receiving forgiveness for bad actions, a person could be driven into denial or end up with a seared conscience or suicide.

  • The causality of prayer is based on God’s discretionary power. He ultimately decides if our desired changes should be made or not in answer to our requests. If God did not hold the ‘granting’ power in His own hands, prayer would then be an ultimate human power – whatever we asked for would happen. That would be more like magic, and would be a power humans could not bear to wield in their fallen state.

This type of causality is a stronger kind than the causality of work because it is not bound by time and space. Prayer moves within time, but also outside of it. Through prayer we touch the throne room of heaven unbound by time. God is in His throne room with Jesus at His right hand, and the Holy Spirit living in the temple of our body.

So if in ‘time’ we face an issue we cannot handle, (like cancer) or a change we desire to be made (total health), God, in His love, care and commitment to us, says to us, “Come into the throne room a minute and let’s discuss in eternity your concern for change you can’t accomplish. And then – we’ll see what we’ll do back in time.


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