"Heads I Win, Tails You Lose!"

Since I became a serious thinking Christian, I realized that reading all of C.S. Lewis' books was a part of my sanctification. The current book I'm reading is The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast. In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape writes Wormwood in his twenty-seventh letter about prayer: (As a bit of background for those unfamiliar with this classic, Lord help them, Screwtape is a high ranking "devil" who writes letters to his predecessor, young Wormwood, who's training )

"But since your patient has contracted the terrible habit of obedience (to prayer), he will probably continue such 'crude' prayers whatever you do. But you can worry hum 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, he will, of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and 'therefore it would have happened anyways,' and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as denied one that prayers are ineffective."

Has this thought not crossed your mind every so often when praying? For a long time, when I would face unanswered prayers of importance and insignificant prayers which turned out to come true, the reasoning of Screwtape's argument played in my mind. In the instance where serious prayers were unanswered I would struggle with the effectivenes of prayer. "How are my prayers worth expressing when they are left unanswered? Why put up with constant disappointment by trying to understand why my prayers are not being answered?" On the otherhand, when I would pray for, what I thought were small, prayers, I would somehow rationalize my way out of believing God pulled through by divine intervention. There were many instances when the day seemed impossible to complete the amount of errands I had to run or work I had to finish. Most of the time, though, all would work and I even saw chances to impact others for Christ's glory. When it first happend, I would think, "Amen!" But then swiftly dismiss it and not give God the glory which was his to begin with. "Thankfulness" had, and still on occasion, been a problem. This also touched on the amount of trust (faith) I put in God to transform my life and plans.

Jack Lewis, through Screwtape, wrote, what I think, is crucial for Christians to be aware of when praying. As I believe Satan is a real entity, in that he exists to destroy and persuade us from Truth (Jesus Christ), it is foundational for mature Christians to recognize and discern attacks on Truth such as this false thinking. Some events can be explained by naturalistic explanations, but that does not thwart the intervention by an outside person, God. Next time, when you are interceding for the Holy Spirit to convict the heart of your unbelieving friend, or for the grocery bill to work out right because you are low on fund, trust in the Lord. Understand, first, that the amount of trust isn't what makes the fulfillment of prayer. God loves our prayers and desires us to depend on Him for sustaining our spirit through difficult and even mundane times. The bible tells us that putting your act of trust in Christ mimics incense to the Holy Spirit.


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