How To Pray, ch 13: Before the Burning Bush

Moses before the burning bush: Giovanni Francesco Penni (d. c. 1528)

The 13th chapter of How To Pray from HarperOne is a brief excerpt from chapter 15 of Letters to Malcolm, accompanied by two sidebars: the poem “Footnote to all Prayers” from Poems – and paragraph 27 of chapter 6 in The Four Loves. Here we are dealing with an issue of much importance to Lewis.

It is again that issue of Realty; here, the real me praying to the real God, vs. my unreal ideas and feelings about myself and God. Lewis says that we must get beyond our false ideas if the Bush is going to burn – if we are going to be where Moses was on the mountain: face to face with a God we cannot fully know, and unescapably faced with our own finitude and uncleanness.

We were made to know God. But we mess ourselves up in that relationship. We know so little. Our feelings get in the way. Our ideas can be so wrong. Our motives are always in question. And on top of it all: the immeasureable brightness and holiness, the ineffable being and presence of the Glory of God. It’s as if prayer is impossible from the start. Lewis wants us to be aware of this dilemma so that, by God’s grace and the share we have in the work of Christ on our behalf, we can get beyond it.

The whole chapter reminds me of a hymn, which is a good commentary on Lewis’s point:

Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live and look on Thee.

The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.

Oh, how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before th’ Ineffable appear,
And on my natural spirit bear
The uncreated beam?

There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime Abode;
An Offering and a Sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
An Advocate with God:

These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above;
The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the eternal Light,
Through the eternal Love.

Thomas Binney (1798-1874)

Here is Lewis’s passion: to meet God on “the holy ground.” May it be our passion – and delight – as well.

Footnote: read Hebrews 10.

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Reference: C. S. Lewis, How To Pray: Reflections and Essays, (New York, HarperOne, 2018), ISBN-13: 978-0062847133.

Please note that the content and viewpoints of Rev. Beckmann are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.

The Rev. David Beckmann has for many years been involved in both the Church and education. He helped to start a Christian school in South Carolina, tutored homeschoolers, and has been adjunct faculty for both Covenant College and the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. He founded the C.S. Lewis Society of Chattanooga in 2005. He has spoken extensively on C.S Lewis, and was the Director of the C.S Lewis Study Centre at The Kilns from 2014-2015. He is currently a Regional Representative for the C.S. Lewis Foundation in Chattanooga.

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