Screwtape on Empty Minds in Prayer
There is a brief health update at the end of this message.
Max McLean's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS comes to Louisville
on November 6-7, 2009. www.fpatheatre.com/screwtape
FREE WORSHIP CONFERENCE: GOSPEL-CENTERED WORSHIP FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH, for worship leaders and pastors, November 10-11, 2009, at Louisville's Sojourn Community Church. Presenters include Tim Smith (of Mars Hill Church), Sandra McCracken, and Kevin Twit. Co-sponsored by the SBTS Institute for Christian Worship.
Registration is now open for the 2010 CALVIN SYMPOSIUM ON WORSHIP,
January 28-30, 2010, in Grand Rapids. Presenters include Jeremy Begbie, Marva Dawn, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Lester Ruth, John Witvliet, and many others. http://www.calvin.edu/worship/sympos/2010
Is it a challenge for you to stay focused during times of prayer, especially silent prayer. How does one grow in the area of prayer? Certainly, we can learn from the Psalms, from the Lord's model prayer (Matthew 6 and Luke 11), and from a host of other prayers and instructional passages in the Bible. It may seem odd to you, but I confess that I have learned a great deal about the Christian life and the discipline of prayer by listening to the fictitious voice of Uncle Screwtape in THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. Here we have another convicting excerpt from C. S. Lewis's brilliant book that teaches us about Christian faith and discipleship by presenting a master devil (Uncle Screwtape) as he coaches a young tempter (his nephew Wormwood) in how best to lead a young Christian astray. Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is from the lips of a deceiver and a liar.
[CAUTION: Read with care and understanding. This is the voice of a devil. His "Enemy" is Jesus. His patient is a young Christian man.]
SCREWTAPE ON "EMPTY MINDS" IN PRAYER
The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether. When the patient is an adult recently re-converted to the Enemy's party, like your man, this is best done by encouraging him to remember, or to think he remembers, the parrot-like nature of his prayers in childhood. In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularised; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional MOOD in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part. One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray "with moving lips and bended knees" but merely "composed his spirit to love" and indulged "a sense of supplication." That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practiced by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy's service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite a long time. At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.
óC. S. Lewis. (1898-1963) THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. New York: Time Incorporated, 1961, pp 10-11. Highly recommended. [Did you know that THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS was dedicated to J. R. R. Tolkien?]
[There are so many valuable things one can learn from this diabolical study in spirituality. This book has been a huge blessing in my life. In the preface, Lewis says, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight. . . . Readers are advised to remember that the Devil is a liar (p. xxxi). Today's selection reminds me that God is not wanting us to approach holiness by emptying our minds (as certain Eastern religions would advise], but by filling them with things that are true, noble, and pure (Phil. 4:8).]
Max McLean's powerful dramatic production of THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS is coming to Louisville's Brown Theatre on November 6 & 7, 2009. There are also upcoming performances in Phoenix, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Please take a look at these sites and learn more about this great opportunity, including the availability of group rates and student tickets. I am a great fan of this actor and his work through Fellowship for the Performing Arts.
HEALTH UPDATE & PRAYER REQUEST
FOR CHIP STAM, RECOVERING CANCER PATIENT
Dear Praying Friends,
There are longer journal entries and photos at www.caringbridge.org/visit/carlstam .
We are still waiting patiently (and prayerfully) for the next PET scan, scheduled for November 18.
Last weekend (October 22-25) I had the opportunity to tell about my cancer journey at a Morehead Scholarship Alumni Forum at UNC-Chapel Hill. The title for our panel was: "Seven Words from Winston Churchill: If You're Going through Hell, Keep Going.'" It was a joy to speak of God's mercy and sufficiency through my years of cancer treatment.
Thanks for your friendship, interest, and faithful prayers to our great God and Savior.
In His care,
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Ministries
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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