C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity. Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press. On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.
It’s so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one.
–Letters to Malcom
In this quote, Lewis is hitting on another universal tendency: it is always easier to do the “right” thing by proxy than in person. It is always easier to bear a burden, speak the truth, or even offer forgiveness at a distance than it is up close and personal, where it might cost you something.
For Lewis, as for us, it is infinitely easier to kneel (or sit, or stand, or even wave our arms around) in prayer than it is to actually reach out and touch someone else. I myself understand this all too well–I have to force myself to be extroverted in most situations. For all but the most dedicated (and also the most effective) of prayer warriors, prayer is easy, simple, and quick. It requires little emotional investment and even less risk. (Which makes me wonder at the fact that we all don’t do more of it, given how well we know it works!)
Of course, I’m not trying to suggest that we stop praying or that prayer is a bad thing. I am agreeing with Lewis, though, that we often use it to insulate us from harder responsibilities. There were other ways available to Lewis and his contemporaries to accomplish the same–a telephone call or letter provide a similar separation. As time as passed, we’ve gotten even better at it. The internet, while drawing us so close together, let’s us throw up walls between ourselves and literally millions of people. We can say what we like, to whom we like, with no risk and few consequences. Just look at the comments section of the average article or video.
In the American church, this couples with denial to make a perfect storm of detachment from a dangerous world dying on our very doorstep. Most Christians still blindly refuse to accept the plain fact that we have become a post-Christian nation. Many churches remain stuck in the older patterns of mission work–“missions” happens “over there.” We write letters, send money, fill up shoe boxes, and, of course, pray, all the while remaining comfortably insulated from people who need help, spiritually and physically, literally across the street. We don’t know how to engage them and, if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll have to admit that we’re afraid what engagement might mean. There, even with the grace of God, go I all too often.
I hope that we will pray–as we never have before. But I also hope that we’ll make the harder choices too.