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Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer Paperback – November 4, 2002
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From the Back Cover
""We want to know not how we should pray if we were perfect but how we should pray being as we now are.""
What are we doing when we pray? What is at the heart of this most intimate conversation, the dialogue between a person and God? How does prayer its form, its regularity, its content, its insistence shape who we are and how we believe? In this collection of letters from C. S. Lewis to a close friend, Malcolm, we see an intimate side of Lewis as he considers all aspects of prayer and how this singular ritual impacts the lives and souls of the faithful. With depth, wit, and intelligence, as well as his sincere sense of a continued spiritual journey, Lewis brings us closer to understanding the role of prayer in our lives and the ways in which we might better imagine our relationship with God.
"A beautifully executed and deeply moving little book." "Saturday Review"
"[Lewis] is writing about a path that he had to find, and the reader feels not so much that he is listening to what C.S. Lewis has to say but that he is making his own search with a humorous, sensible friend beside him." "Times Literary Supplement"
C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis (1898 1963), one of the great writers of the twentieth century, also continues to be one of our most influential Christian thinkers. He wrote more than thirty books, both popular and scholarly, including "The Chronicles of Narnia," "The Screwtape Letters," "The Four Loves," "Mere Christianity," and "Surprised by Joy."
Top customer reviews
The book's structure takes the form of fictional letters written by Lewis to his friend “Malcolm” in which they discusses matters of deep importance to the Christian life. Mostly, these letters all discuss issues that have to do with prayer, and the other issues branch off of that. Worship, Heaven, and other issues are mulled over, but they all come back to prayer. When this is taken into account, the reader will find the title quite fitting.
There is some controversy over this title, and it has not received the same popularity as Lewis' other works for two main reasons. First off, Lewis proposes many logic puzzles and theological questions, but doesn't really seem to follow through on them. He leaves many questions <i>un</i>answered. The second issue is how he refused to condemn some liberal Christians.
I can see why some today, and even at the time, I suppose, may have had problems with the gentleness Lewis showed towards critics and his reticence to answer questions specifically in certain areas. I am not of that number, however. On these two issues, both Lewis, and those who dislike his style here, have a point, for both “styles” of approaching these issues are <i>needed</i> in the Church.
What I mean by this is that we have a great need for a deep understanding of doctrines and the ability to defend what we believe. Thusly, we can witness to others, and praise God. But the flip side is that we need humility in our interpretations of Scriptures, and in our answers to questions the Word is not clear on. Also, we need to call out the folks who distort the Bible, as some were disappointed Lewis did not do here. On the other hand, we need to disagree while showing them love and compassion. Thus, we may win them over to Christ, Lord-willing. Both approaches are needed, and which one each Christian takes is between him and God.
I really benefited both from the musings and studies of Scripture that CS Lewis engaged in here, as well as his humility in admitting he doesn't know everything, and that we must consider these issues carefully. Again, some are called by God to be more forceful, while others, like Professor Lewis, were called to be humble and understanding, as he was in this book.
My church's book club decided to go with this book last spring as we desired to learn more about prayer. Some very helpful discussions were launched off the platform of "Letters to Malcom" and I'm so glad we chose to read it. It isn't important to have all the answers on prayer, but to start praying. Receive the gift of prayer, for the purpose of spiritual formation. Read the book and consider some tough questions, new perspectives and a delightful journey into the wonderful mystery of prayer.
Path: This book is a compilation of letters written to a friend (and his wife). You only hear one side, that of Lewis, and follow various contentions and criticisms. While discussing the topic of prayer, Lewis touches on determinism, Heaven, joy, omniscience, and the “irksomeness” of prayer.
Sources: Lewis is not an expert, and he regularly reminds us of that. However, in nearly every letter he references a great poet, theologian, or philosopher. Standing where he is standing, looking at all those with whom he is familiar, he can’t call himself an expert. But from where I am, he is.
Agreement: My heart resonated with much of what Lewis explained. His ability to use metaphors to explain his thoughts is so helpful. I also appreciated the format in which Malcom (and his wife) argued with him.
Disagreement: There are always point in where I think Lewis is mistaken, but even his view of purgatory (which I disagree with), makes sense with his imagination.
Personal App: Prayer is relating with the infinite God with my finite abilities through his overwhelming grace. Do I take advantage of that privilege?
Favorite Quote: “Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun” (90).
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:
loves to read Lewis
wants to sit in on a philosophical discussion
wants to be stirred to pray
Because this book only contains the letters written by Lewis, readers have to use context clues to figure out what Malcolm originally wrote in his letters.
The letters in this book cover a variety of subjects, many with theological emphases, however as a whole the letters are chiefly about the spiritual discipline of prayer.
I loved this book!