The Presence and Vision and Enjoyment of God in Prayer

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C.S. Lewis has a short yet compelling essay on prayer entitled, "The Efficacy of Prayer," in the collection known as The World's Last Night. In the ten page essay, he argues well concerning the true, causal efficacy of prayer. It is a worth-while short read.

But here, I want to quote something he said about the different aspects of prayer. This quote actually occurs in a parenthetical statement in the essay, but the more I meditate on it, the more accurate and helpful it becomes. Lewis writes,

"Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine."

This stirs me to pray and to understand what I'm doing as I pray. His swift explanation of the different aspects of prayer is quite insightful.

Confession and penitence are the "threshold" of prayer. By this Lewis seems to imply that we enter into God's presence by admitting we are unworthy, sinful, and stained, but also by findings forgiveness and access through Christ.

Adoration is the "sanctuary" of prayer. I love this because Lewis is intentional with his word "adoration." In Lewis' book, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, he explains that 'thanksgiving' is being grateful to God, because of what he did; while 'adoration' is rejoicing in God, in who he is. This is an important difference. Adoration is the culmination of thanksgiving. As a result, adoring God is the holy place ('sanctuary')—the place of worship—in prayer. We not only thank God for things, we adore him because of those things. We worship. But Lewis doesn't stop there...

"The presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine." This is clarifying and practical concerning prayer. What is prayer ultimately about? Lewis' answer is right: being with God ("presence"), seeing God ("vision"), delighting in and loving God ("enjoyment"). This is what really makes up prayer ("its bread and wine"). This is why we do it. This is why God commanded it. And so, this is what I should mainly be aiming at when I pray. This is why it is practical. It directs my purpose in prayer. So often I come to mainly petition, or mainly give thanks. But Lewis points me in a more God-centered and God-glorifying direction: I pray to refuel and refresh myself with the bread and wine of the presence and vision and enjoyment of God.

(Side Note: Concerning how he explains petition as "asking for things," this one isn't too detailed because the whole essay is on what petition actually is. A page later, Lewis concludes that petition is God giving his creatures the "dignity of causality." But I encourage you to read the essay to see what he means here.)

Quote from C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night and Other Essays (New York: Harper Collins, 1952), 7.