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When this, or any other distraction, crosses his mind you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power
and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing had happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present
problem and lays that before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavours, then, so far
from doing good, you have done harm. Anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving him close up to the
Enemy, makes against us in the long run.
A promising line is the following. Now that he is in love, a new idea of earthly happiness has arisen in his mind: and
hence a new urgency in his purely petitionary prayers—about this war and other such matters. Now is the time for
raising intellectual difficulties about prayer of that sort. False spirituality is always to be encouraged. On the seemingly
pious ground that "praise and communion with God is the true prayer", humans can often be lured into direct
disobedience to the Enemy who (in His usual flat, commonplace, uninteresting way) has definitely told them to pray for
their daily bread and the recovery of their sick. You will, of course, conceal from him the fact that the prayer for daily
bread, interpreted in a "spiritual sense", is really just as crudely petitionary as it is in any other sense.
But since your patient has contracted the terrible habit of obedience, he will probably continue such "crude" prayers
whatever you do. But you can worry him 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; if it does happen, he will, of course, be able to see some http://members.fortunecity.com/phantom1/books2/c._s._lewis_-_the_screwtape_letters.htm 2/07/2008 THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS Page 29 of 34 of the physical causes which led up to it, and "therefore it would have happened anyway", and thus a granted prayer
becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.
You, being a spirit, will find it difficult to understand how he gets into this confusion. But you must remember that he
takes Time for an ultimate reality. He supposes that the Enemy, like himself, sees some things as present, remembers
others as past, and anticipates others as future; or even if he believes that the Enemy does not see things that way, yet,
in his heart of hearts, he regards this as a peculiarity of the Enemy's mode of perception—he doesn't really think
(though he would say he did) that things as the Enemy sees them are things as they are! If you tried to explain to him
that men's prayers today are one of the innumerable coordinates with which the Enemy harmonises the weather of
tomorrow, he would reply that then the Enemy always knew men were going to make those prayers and, if so, they did
not pray freely but were predestined to do so. And he would add that the weather on a given day can be...
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- Spring '07