How To Pray, ch. 10 – Watch your state of mind…

“Consider the lilies of the field….”

We have now come to the fourth and final excerpt from the Screwtape Letters in the new HarperOne book, How To Pray, this being from Letter 6.

We could say that these three paragraphs are about “states of mind” (p. 86). There are primarily two involved. First, we should focus on the present and not the future. The question is asked: What is patient endurance of God’s will? Answer: We find God’s will for our lives in the present.

Consider Matt 6:34 – if you are going to worry, worry about what you actually have to worry about today. Forget tomorrow, because you have enough to deal with today. You don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow anyway. God provides the daily bread for the daily care or duty.

The mannah in the wilderness teaches us what we need to know here. Instead of living in the present, the devil wants us looking into the future, imagining what we have to worry about and then trying to prepare ourselves for it. We can think that our daily cross is having to accept these future fantasies. Lewis says God’s way of living in the present is easier here, and we are sure for grace to handle the present, the daily mannah.

The second state of mind at issue is a balanced attention to our actions and the inner condition of our heart. Our actions and the spiritual condition of heart should coordinate; we know that. They both matter and come into play. The devil wants to confuse these, so we are approving actions that our heart would condemn, or we are occupied with our hearts when we need to be looking outward toward our God and our present duty instead.

These above frames of mind affect our prayers. Should we be praying for grace to face what may never be? Should not our devotional prayer be more about how wonderful God is than about how spiritual we feel? In our me-oriented and sentimental age – at least in the West – we so much need to watch and pray that we live in the present and keep both our actions and hearts in the light of the Word and Love of God.

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

[above image: Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]

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.