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Screwtape Letters 6 Prayer

C.S. Lewis


Born late 19th century. – Belfast, Ireland

Considered – one of – most influential writers of the 20th century.

At 15, he loses his faith and pronounces his commitment to atheism and the occult.

B/C of that influence, He eventually returns to Christianity.

Influential writer – 20th century :

Writes Books:

  • Chronicles of Narnia – Lion, Witch, wardrobe,
  • Mere Christianity

The Screwtape Letters

Collection of Letters

3 characters.

All you need to know is 3 characters.

1. Screwtape

The uncle – Senior demon. – Highly experienced and extremely successful demon. – The author of all the letters. ‘Our father below’ – Satan. ‘Our enemy above’ – God.

2. Wormwood

Screwtape’s nephew. – Demon who’s new to the job and doesn’t really know how to tempt his human yet.

3. The Patient

The recently converted human who is the subject of the book. Wormwood (the nephew) is assigned the patient to reclaim back from the camp of the enemy (God).

Also, of course, not everyone believes in a literal satan & demons. I personally do. But don’t get caught up on that. As you’ll see, that’s not actually what the book is about. – Traps that we so easily fall into.

Thus far: We’ve followed patient:

  • Becomes a Christian
  • Goes to Church
  • Goes to War
  • Falls in Love
  • Doubts

This week:

The Patient prays.

Screwtape – Starts – letter : Starts this letter angry.

The amateurish suggestions in your last letter warn me that it is finally time for me to write to you on the painful subject of prayer.

You might have skipped the comment that my advice about his prayers “proved unhelpful”.

That is not the sort of thing that a nephew should write to his uncle—nor a junior tempter should write to the under-secretary of a department.

It also shows an unpleasant desire to shift responsibility; you must learn to pay for your own blunders.

It’s obviously impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers harmless.

Make sure his prayers are always very “spiritual”. Make sure he’s always concerned with the state of his mothers soul and never with her arthritis.

His attention will be kept on what he considers her sins, which of course simply means whatever is inconvenient or irritating to him.

Thus you can keep making him more angry and defensive, even when he is on his knees praying. It’s not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining.

In time, you may get the patient so “spiritual” that his prayers for the mother will never flow over into his treatment of her.

I’ve had patients of my own that could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife or son to beating or insulting the wife or son without an issue.

Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings. When they are trying to ask the enemy for love, let them, instead, be trying to manufacture loving feelings.

When they are trying to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave.

When they say they are praying for their own forgiveness, let them instead be trying to feel forgiven.

Teach them to gauge the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling.


Unqualified If there’s one subject I feel the least qualified to talk about, it’s prayer. Prayer is not just one thing. It’s lot of things.

Lots of TYPE of prayers:

  • Petitionary Prayer
  • Corporate Prayer
  • Prayer of Consecration
  • Intercession
  • Personal prayer as a spiritual discipline.

Prayer is hard for a lot of people.

Prayer is a primary spiritual practice of a true Christian.

Jesus prioritized prayer


Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)


One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12)

Also says Jesus went out in the evening to pray. Sometimes even pulled a prayer all-nighter.

Jesus would often prioritize prayer when he had a decision to make.

When he wanted to know what God wanted him to do, he would prioritize prayer.

  • The night before he chose his disciples, he spent all night praying.
  • He would go away and pray before deciding which town to go to next.

Me: ‘On purpose’ Christian – 15. I’ve been an ‘on purpose’ Christian since probably 15. I was a Christian before that, but that’s when it kinda became ‘personal’, if that makes sense. When you become a Christian, the things that you learn that you’re supposed to do – go to church, read bible, pray.

It’s kinda like a kid being thrown into the water.

We don’t come to God knowing how to pray.

We’ll say things like ‘Just talk to God’. But we don’t realize all this language that we’ve learned from our years and years of church attendance. I want to use the word ‘Liturgy’.


Bible word : “Work of the people”

In bible: usually translated as worship or “ministering to the Lord.” But really what it is, is language.

If you pray, you have a liturgy.

You have key phrases, and things that you say every time you pray.

Liturgy – before – eat. – Dad.

I have a liturgy that I pray before I eat. I got it from my dad. “Thank you for this meal. Bless it and make it nourishing to our bodies, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.”

People come to the Christian faith and they don’t speak our well developed liturgy, what they mostly feel is guilt.

(The Lords Prayer)

After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:46)

Mountains classic metaphor of prayer.

A lot of praying in the bible happens on mountains.

  • Mount Saini
  • Mount Horeb
  • Mount Carmel
  • Mount Tabor

Among the people who liked praying on mountaintops is Jesus. He had a few placed he liked to pray. One of them was this mountain in galilee. In the gospels it’s called ‘THE Mountain.’ It’s talking about Mount Arbel (pic)

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: (Luke 11:1)

And he gave them the Lords prayer.

He was praying in a certain place PROBABLY “THE mountain.”

“Teach us to pray like John the baptist taught his disciples.”

John the baptist was a rabbi, Jesus became known as a Rabbi.

Rabbi’s we known for teaching their disciples how to pray.

Notice he didn’t say ‘Just talk’.

Disclaimer : I think that there’s totally a place for that.

But in his teaching, he was teaching them the language, the liturgy.

Like music. – Jazz I think it’s like music. There’s these amazing jazz guitar players. And they’re doing all kinds of who knows what on the guitar, making stuff up often times. Feeling it out. That’s super cool. But if a beginner came wanted to learn how to play guitar, you wouldn’t show him a jazz guitar player and say ‘Just play.’ That’s not helpful.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (ESV) (Acts 2:42)

Depending on translation. Many older translations say ‘prayer’, but most think that ‘the prayers’ is more accurate.

Notice the difference there.

  • “Prayer” seems kinda vague.
  • “The Prayers” – specific.

“What prayers?” – The prayers of the community.

Unfortunately we don’t have those: It can be assumed: The Lords Prayer, Jewish Prayer book (Psalms). And at the same time, the church was composing it’s own prayers. What’s happening here is the early church was learning the language of prayer.

Here’s the application

2 types of people

1. If honest – rather – avoid prayer.

For many people, who if they’re being honest say they often times would rather just avoid prayer.

Helpful: Understand : Understand that part of what’s been handed down to you as a Christian is Prayers to pray.

Learn (or remember) the language that we are to use in prayer.

Bring you some peace.

If you want to learn to pray let me make a recommendation. It’s surprisingly to some, it’s not ‘Just talk to God.’

Commit yourselves to the prayers.

The prayers will teach you how to pray.

“Where do I find these prayers?” I’m so glad you asked!!!! – Your bible.

(5 Examples)


2. Been praying – 20 years

For others, you’ve been praying for 2 hours a day, 365 days a year for the last 20 years,

There are resources for you to make sure that you’re praying the right thing.

His attention will be kept on what he considers her sins, which of course simply means whatever is inconvenient or irritating to him.

Thus you can keep making him more angry and defensive, even when he is on his knees praying. It’s not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining.

We have a tendency to make prayer be a way to add supernatural power behind whatever our idea is.


“ Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

But if that’s all it was, it’s just ‘pray and whatever you want will happen’. Well one person would pray for a mountain to be moved, then another person would come and pray to move it back, and nothing would ever get done.

  • Pray Obama gets elected.
  • Pray Obama get’s impeached.

Liturgy anchors you. You need liturgy to even know what kind of things you should be praying for.

I would encourage you, to include some of ‘The Prayers’ into your prayer life.

Keep you on track.

Teach you what types of things you’re supposed to pray.

The purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what you would do if you were God.

You need to be formed by the prayers, and they will keep in line regarding the things you’re supposed to pray.

Peter & John walking

Come to a man born lame.

Begging for handouts.

“Silver and Gold have I none, but what I have I give to you. Get up and walk.”

Healed. Walking, and jumping, and praising God. Surprise: this draws a crowd.

Peter & John get arrested. Preaching the gospel that says “Jesus is Lord and Cesar is not.”

Ultimately get released. Report back to the other Christians about what happened and they all break into spontaneous prayer.

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. (Acts 4:24)

You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “ ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? (Acts 4:25)

The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’ (Acts 4:26)

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. (Acts 4:27)

They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:28)

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. (Acts 4:29)

Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:30)

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31)

So this is a spontaneous prayer. Obviously powerful, the place shakes.

But notice: as they’re praying spontaneously, in the middle, they’re actually ‘playing’ off psalm 2. This is high level. There’s creativity but they’re not making stuff up.

When Jesse or Josh is playing some solo, he’s not making stuff up out of thin air. – Creativity rooted in what they’ve learned.


When I was young: I never understood the book of psalms.

I just seemed artsy and annoying.

The only began to understand psalms when I learn that it was the prayer book of the jews did it start to make sense.

This was a book that was passed down, and people would pray these prayers. More accurate to say: they’d sing them or maybe chant them. And, there’s an incredible amount in the book of psalms.

Incredibly honest prayers.

Sorry – Joy – Anger – Forgiveness – Hate.

Encourage honesty in you.

Essential prayer: The Lords Prayer

It’s the prayer that Jesus composed to teach them how to pray.

Some people “Do you think he actually meant to actually pray this?”

Very high praise of the Lords prayer : Kurt Vonigut. (Slaughterhouse 5) – Atheist.

“While Einstein’s theory of relativity may one day put Earth on the intergalactic map, it will always run a distant second to the Lord’s Prayer, whose harnessing of energies in their proper, life-giving direction surpasses even the discovery of fire.”

Learn the language of prayer.



Reiterate: Jesus wants to teach you how to pray.

Invites you in as a disciple. Where he’ll teach you, and lead you.

We come to him & receive him.

We abide – him
He abides – us.