The more I think about prayer, the less I understand, and the less I understand, the harder it is to pray. It’s rather like trying to drive a car after dismantling the engine.
The book of James invites me to pray for wisdom (1:5), then tells me not to expect an answer if I have any doubts (1:6-8). Hmmm.
There is, however, a footnote to prayer that I do understand—and heartily affirm. It was published by C. S. Lewis in 1934 and distills more truth in 14 lines than most books on the subject. The theology far outstrips the poetry.
Footnote to All Prayers
He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.
[You English Majors will recognize this as a sonnet, but for extra credit, is the metre (sic) Petrarchan or Shakespearean?]