what i’m reading: Mere Christianity

Category : CS Lewis, book review, feeding my brain

   

“Why didn’t anyone tell me CS Lewis was brilliant?!”

That’s pretty much what I think when I pick up one of his books.  I’ve gone my entire life not understanding what people saw in this CS Lewis guy.  I had read the Chronicles of Narnia and enjoyed them.  But even as a kid I knew they were “simplistic.”  I could never quite figure out why he held such appeal for Christians. To be honest I thought they were latching onto the guy because he was famous.  Little did I know how wrong I was!

Mere Christianity is my second book by Lewis.  And I now fully understand why he’s been important to so many Christians.  Lewis is a master of words, and is able to explain complex Christian theology in a simple and relate-able way.  Every sentence in this book is packed with importance and significance. 

The title of the book is a bit confusing to the modern ear.  And until I started to read the book, I didn’t fully understand what that title was trying to convey.  In essence he really wrote a book that could be called ’simple’ or ‘basic’ Christianity.  In a way this is God 101.  But don’t let that fool you, there is more information packed into this book than most dense academic works.

Mere Christianity is broken into 4 sections.  Each dealing with an aspect of what it means to come into a relationship with God.  In section one he outlines some clues to the existence of God.  Section two discusses what Christians really believe.  Followed by how Christians should behave, and what it means to be a Christian.  The fourth section, which is probably his most ambitious, is an attempt to explain who God is – namely the Trinity (Jesus, God, the Holy Ghost).

Very few writers are more quotable than Lewis.  But that’s not the most striking part of Mere Christianity.  Lewis is a master at using examples to explain his points.  He has a way of taking a complex concept (e.g., the Trinity) and giving simple explanations that really crystallize the concepts for the reader.

Lewis holds a special place for me, because he’s one of those writers that disproves the idea that to believe in God you need to turn off your brain.  As I explore his writings I continue to realize that God wants us to use our brains as much as our hearts. 

morning prayer: to pray or not to pray…

Category : CS Lewis, God, Jesus, prayer, taking action

   

If you’ve been a Christian for a while – or are even considering being one – you’ll often have people tell you what you “need” to do to be one.  Some of you may even feel that way about this site!

When I became a Christian a few years ago I began to realize that God is too diverse and people are too diverse to have “one” way to know God.  It seems inconceivable that there is only “one” way to worship, or “one” way to pray, or “one” way to show God that you love him.  I’m positive that the way God communicates with me (and ultimately convinced me he was real) would not work with other people.  So if God can reach me as an individual, why can’t he reach others in the exact way they need to be reached?

That’s not to say there aren’t “good” things to do as a Christian.  Things that maybe we should all practice.  After all, even Jesus was very deliberate about the time he spent in prayer and about the people he got to know.  So let’s be clear: I’m not talking about whether it’s okay to sin, or if such and such an activity is a sin or isn’t.  Those are different topics.  What I’m referring to are those activities that seem like good ideas, but maybe aren’t for everyone.

At the top of my list is “morning prayer.”  I’m not a morning person.  I don’t like people, I don’t like animals, I barely like my cereal.  I don’t want to pray just for the sake of prayer.  I detest anything that smacks of religion for religion’s sake.  So I’ve always resisted having a specific period of time in the morning devoted to prayer. 

But I can’t seem to escape this idea.  So many people do it.  And so many people talk about how important it is to their relationship with God.  Was I missing out on something? 

Earlier this year I was really wrestling with this question.  I was wondering if I needed to set aside a specific time to pray so I could “feel” God.  As I was praying about it I realized that God has always been there to talk to me regardless of my activity (eating, driving, showering, crying about my fantasy football team…).

I’ve always feared that if I tried to “confine” those conversations with God to a “morning devotional” or some such thing, I’d lose out on one of the greatest aspects of God – that he’s a living, relational God.  So I decided against any formal morning prayers.  If they happened, great.  If not, so be it.  

That’s been my view for the better part of 8 months.

But then I read CS Lewis.  He says, “that is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it.  It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.  All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first job each morning consists simply of shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” (Mere Christianity, p 198)

What if he’s right? What if in the morning we are really fighting our “natural” selves more than, say, at lunchtime? In that case prayer becomes hugely important, because I know I can’t change who I am on my own. I need Christ for that.

If God is leading us each on an important path, a path that is unique to us, then we need to be sensitive to that direction.  And how can we be sensitive to that if we allow our “natural” selves to control us from the start of the day?  We will always be playing catch up.  And if football teaches us anything it is playing from behind is difficult!

Now I’m still not convinced that prayer in the morning is something God always wants us to do.  But I think it is clear that praying in the morning is more than just a “religious” act.  It is also more important than I originally believed.  It is something that I think each of us needs to talk to God about. 

God doesn’t want us to do anything out of obligation.  But if setting some time aside in the morning helps bring me closer to God, than I am all for it!