My dear Wormwood,
But since your patient has contracted the terrible habit of obedience, he will probably continue such ‘crude’ prayers whatever you do. But you can worry him with the haunting suspicion that the practice is absurd and can have no objective result. Don’t forget to use the ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ argument. If the thing he prays for doesn’t happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don’t work; if it does happen, he will, of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and ‘therefore it would have happened anyway’, and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.
Your affectionate uncle,
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (originally 1942; this edition: Harper Collins, 1996) 148.
In 1942 C.S. Lewis published a classic in christian literature, The Screwtape Letters. I have read this book several times and enjoy it more with each reading. It is a satirical novel written in the form of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior “tempter” named Wormwood. Lewis enters the mind of the enemy and shows the devilish strategies behind the seemingly routine life of Wormwood’s “Patient”. Through the negative vantage point of a demon’s eyes, we see the unpacking of important life lessons. We see the unfolding temptations and trials of the “Patient” in new light and gain understanding into our own lives and the spiritual impact of every event.
Although The Screwtape Letters is one of C.S. Lewis’ most popular works, Lewis reveals in the final pages that it was not easy to bend his mind in such a way. He claims it was “not fun” to write, and “resolved never to write another ‘Letter’.” (p.184)
I am reminded of this masterful piece of christian literature because of its similarity to an audio piece recorded by the well remembered talk radio personality, Paul Harvey. Mr. Harvey recorded the below clip in 1965. It amazes me that whether we are discussing Lewis, published in 1942, or Harvey, aired in 1965, the principles of Scripture aptly speak to us today. Both mediums take the negative perspective and show us a fresh understanding of our times. They prophetically call us to examine our lives and our society under the standard of God’s Word.
It is my prayer that you would listen to this 2:54 clip, maybe go out and read some C.S. Lewis, and polish the lenses of your Christian Worldview through which we best understand reality all around us.
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam