Sunday, July 31, 2016

George MacDonald on Prayer

This year I've been completely obsessed with reading C.S. Lewis.  It started when I finally wrapped up reading volume 2 of a collection of his letters my brother gave me 10 years ago. But that launched me into volume 3, which at 1800 pages, is no small undertaking.

One of the themes in Lewis' letters that keeps showing up is that of Prayer. And that theme keeps showing up in my life as well. This week at a FamilyLife meeting Crawford Loritts spoke - and he always delivers some zingers. He's like a Gatling Gun for heart penetrating quotes. One that I've heard many repeat since is, "If you're not praying, you're a practical atheist, because you're living life like you don't need God." Ouch. Guilty.

Lewis thought much about prayer and especially the relationship between free will and the sovereignty of God. He wrestled openly with the question, "Why, if God knows everything, if He is sovereign, and knows our needs perfectly, even better than we do, why then do we need to pray? What's the role of prayer?"

One of the things I love to seek out about people I admire are the books and people that shaped their lives. George MacDonald had a HUGE influence on Lewis. So much so that he compiled and published an anthology of 365 readings of MacDonald so that more people could experience his work. I've been reading through that collection and ran across the following quote which is quite possibly the most powerful quote on prayer I've ever experienced. And the quote opens with MacDonald anticipating the skeptics question:

Why Should It Be Necessary?
"But if God is so good as you represent Him, and if He knows all that we need, and better far than we do ourselves,why should it be necessary to ask Him for anything?" I answer, What if He knows Prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God's idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need - the need of Himself?... Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need: prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer... So begins a communion, and taking  [sic] with God, a coming-to-one with Him, which is the sole end of prayer, yea, of existence itself in its infinite phases. We must ask that we may receive: but that we should receive what we ask in respect of our lower needs, is not God's end in making us pray, for He could give us everything without that: to bring His child to His knee, God withholds that man may ask."

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