Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. S. Lewis

Lewis was very popular among visiting American students, but never consulted by full-time Oxford students. I can’t remember where I picked up   Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, but I did so with the wish to read more of Lewis’s writing – but also to learn more about prayer as a person of faith. But it was still very enjoyable to spend time with him, and I’ll treat this experience as an entertaining time spent thinking about prayer – and hopefully laying some deeper seeds in my mind about prayer, or just bringing prayer to the forefront of my mind more often than usual – rather than an encounter with life-changing doctrine. Related

One comment on “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. S. Lewis”

cathysrealcountrygardencom March 20, 2017

He is hugely popular in Switzerland too. To invisible straw men, moreover. Inevitably, my reading of this book will be different from somebody who isn’t a Christian – but it might well be of interest to others too. It’s certainly a mixed assortment. Well, in a way, yes… Lewis can pick and choose which arguments he addresses, and we have to imagine what Malcolm has said. Even if we never actually read the firsthand. On finding I was English, a museum attendant’s first question to me was to ask my opinion of CS Lewis”not the children’s books of course”! S. S. Lewis
I worked for the Bodleian, in Reader Services, for seven or eight years (part-time), and one thing I noticed was that C. We only see the letters to Malcolm, and in them Lewis addresses various concerns and questions that Malcolm has around prayer. And as for his discussions – I certainly found them enjoyable and interesting while I was reading them, but it is indicative of anything that I don’t remember much about them now? It was only after about forty pages that I started to ask myself: who was this Malcolm, and did he mind the letters being published? Nothing makes   an absent friend so present as a disagreement. The jacket note opens with ‘Malcolm is a friend of C. I suspect the strength of this book is Lewis’s charm and personality, and his way with rhetoric. How much better we did in our undergraduate days with our interminable letters on the   Republic, and classical metres, and what was then the “new” psychology! I was going to write that I don’t know how much this book would appeal to those who aren’t people of faith – but I have an inkling (pun intended) that I do a little. It’s probably less in theology or sustained argument. I don’t know if he’s gone out of fashion in both areas, but my reading of him so far –   Mere Christianity,   The Screwtape Letters,   A Grief Observed – has been very positive. Does this make his book a collection of retorts to straw men? Which I suppose is fine as a trope – who, indeed, thinks that the Screwtape letters were real letters – but also feels a bit bizarre. When we were last separated the correspondence languished for lack of it. Partly because Lewis invents a specific back story for Malcolm – wife, child, and all – and partly because it means that Lewis invents all the obstacles that Malcolm has. Lewis’s’ – but, sure enough, on some investigation, I found out that he was fabricated for this book. In a letter towards the end, Lewis advocates praying for the dead and the existence of Purgatory – both of which are outside my theology – and I still found reading his arguments interesting, if less practicable for my everyday life. That was true in both English Literature and Theology. Which is fine, if the other additional bits about Malcolm’s family didn’t throw us into thinking they were real. There is – touching on the excellent   A Grief Observed – a little about praying for loved ones in moments where they may die.  
Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestEmailPrintGoogleLike this:Like Loading… And I began to get the uneasy feeling that he didn’t exist. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. Here the first letter begins…
I am all in favour of your idea that we should go back to our old plan of having a more or less set subject – an   agendum – for our letters. I find him a very engaging, personable writer – so much like a wise older friend advising on life that it doesn’t quite work to call him a theologian. After a quick drive-by analysis of corporate prayer, each letter looks at a different topic – whether it is worth telling an omniscient God about our lives (spoilers: it is), the Lord’s Prayer, whether pre-set prayers are more or less useful than ad hoc ones, etc. And that’s absolutely fine. S.